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AUSTRALIA’S LARGEST WFH SURVEY SHOWS YOUNG PEOPLE AREN’T GOING TO RUSH BACK TO THE OFFICE

84% of more than 20,000 respondents said they had almost never worked from home before the pandemic. Now, they are spread much more evenly – 30% in the office full-time, 25% at home full-time, and 45% in a hybrid arrangement.

Young people who have experienced a taste of hybrid work – many of them for the first time – have no intention of returning to the office for the office’s sake. 

It’s one of the new key findings from The Daily Aus as part of one of Australia’s largest surveys to date on a question of urgent interest to businesses, employees, and policymakers: what will the new normal look like?

TDA surveyed more than 20,000 TDA readers – most of them between the ages of 20 and 35 – on how their attitudes to work have changed since the pandemic began. It’s clear the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way young Australians think about work.

Even though many respondents recognised drawbacks to working from home, three quarters prefer a hybrid work model, and only one in ten want to return to the office full time.

But when TDA asked what the ideal split would be, the results were very stark: 77% would prefer hybrid work. Only 10% of respondents said they would prefer not to work from home at all.

There are drawbacks to remote work, but the benefits are greater

In a follow-up survey of more than 10,000 people, TDA asked how working from home affected work performance and satisfaction.

The respondents were split on the question of productivity – 37% said they were more productive at home, 35% less productive, and 28% the same. They were also split on how much they enjoyed work – 44% enjoyed work more from home, but 30% enjoyed it less.

But a clear majority said relationships with colleagues suffered from home. 56% said they got along worse with colleagues when working from home, and only 12% felt they got along better.

Why do people like flexibility?

Hundreds of respondents gave more detailed written answers that add nuance to the overall story. The common theme was that the pandemic had triggered a shift in priorities. 

Many underscored the time spent on commuting, and how more time spent at home during the day – to exercise, or to do household chores – freed up time to make the most of evenings and weekends. 

What can we learn from this?

Employers who expect their employees to return unquestioningly to the ‘old normal’, or policymakers and business owners who are anticipating a return to pre-pandemic levels of traffic in CBDs, may be disappointed.

Young people are happy to return to the office – many written responses emphasised the importance of social connections to their colleagues and the work benefits of face-to-face time – but they will not do so without a clearly-defined purpose and without flexibility to balance their work lives with the rest of their lives.

Businesses who are attuned and receptive to the varied preferences of their staff and can find a way to harness the best of both office time and remote time, will have the best chance of retaining a happy and motivated workforce.

Want to know more?

This survey was co-ordinated and collated by Tom Crowley, a data journalist at The Daily Aus. Tom is available for media comment on the results and for background comment on the methodology and detailed responses. He can be contacted at tom@thedailyaus.com.au or on 0448 055 766.

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