What does the future hold? We ask this question as a new year approaches, reflecting on a year like no other in living memory.

In Australia, we have done a remarkable job to restrain the effects of COVID-19. While there has been significant impact to individuals and businesses, we should look with trepidation to the US and UK as they face multiple, destructive waves of the virus.

Our political leaders and community have collectively responded to ensure the health of our citizens. Working together for a common good has seen political battle lines and social boundaries dissolve as we face an insidious enemy.

But what do we do to prepare for 2021? In my 19 June 2019 column regarding the Future of Work, I said, “People are the key to our future. It’s people and their creativity, ingenuity and passion that drives and sustains our society. Our region is only as successful as our ability to attract, retain and inspire people.”

I discussed the need to move from a command and control hierarchal world of work to “a purpose driven workplace that operates on transparency and trust.”

We have a chance to embrace some good that has come from the pandemic. In many instances, local communities have been brought closer together, more resources have been shared with more time spent at home with family, pets and the garden,  and more home cooking intermingled with work duties.

Digitally challenged organisations have been forced to incorporate technologies including video conferencing into their day-to-day. For those who have worked from home, the reduction in commute times has been beneficial to productivity and the environment.

According to research conducted by UNSW Canberra Public Service Research Group and CQUniversity, there was an overwhelmingly positive experience of managers and employees who were able to realise the benefits of working from home, which dispelled some long-held concerns.

Key findings included that managers were highly supportive of working from home with over 90 percent believing that their teams’ productivity was the same or even higher when working from home. Nearly two-thirds of employees felt that they got more work done than when at the office and had more autonomy. The research also showed that:

  • Over two-thirds wanted to continue working from home on a regular basis for some of their hours.
  • The key reasons for wanting to continue working at home included the ability to manage work and caring responsibilities, and time for themselves and family.
  • Nearly two-thirds of managers indicated they would be more supportive of working from home in the future.
  • While managers are supportive, organisational culture may be lagging.

(Working during the Pandemic: From resistance to revolution? Associate Professor Linda Colley, CQUniversity Dr Sue Williamson, UNSW Canberra, October 2020.)

A key finding related to the culture of workplaces and the need to keep pace with change. Businesses will need to ensure that flexibility of work practices will be offered to keep their best and brightest.

With more people moving to our beautiful region, we need to embrace new mindsets, new workspace concepts and new organisational models not driven from the top but that are highly networked to truly be a clever and creative city.

While we don’t know what 2021 will hold, we can sure that the future belongs to those who are quick to respond to change and know that people – their ability to think critically and creatively – are the most important asset to be cherished.

Jennifer Cromarty
CEO, Committee for Geelong

Image by Standsome Worklifestyle.