Australia’s economy could be $18 billion larger and more than 42,000 extra full-time jobs could be created over the next decade if the country adopts a hybrid working future.
A landmark report commissioned by Telstra has found businesses that have adopted hybrid working, turbo-charged by the Covid-19 pandemic, overall have higher income, productivity, and levels of innovation.
Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said the findings about the potential benefits of hybrid working came at an exciting time when organisations around the globe were debating the future of work.
“This report busts the myth that we need to ‘get back to the office’ to be productive and proves hybrid working can boost the economy, boost businesses, large and small, as well as boost engagement and wellbeing for employees,” Mr Penn said.
“As we continue to battle the pandemic and seek to understand what a ‘Covid-normal’ Australia will look like, hybrid working can and should play an important part of this discussion.
“Many of us have been working-from-home during lockdown which hasn’t been without its challenges, but the future looks brighter when we have greater choice and flexibility over how and where we work.
“In a hybrid working world, the role of the office isn’t dead, it’ll be different. Offices will become places where people will come together for training, collaboration, and connection rather than the outdated model of 9 to 5 deskwork.
“Hybrid working won’t just benefit large organisations. Small and medium businesses have more to gain through higher incomes and productivity from hybrid working than their larger counterparts, in part as larger organisations have invested earlier in digitising their customer experiences and workplaces.
“At Telstra, we’ve had flexible working for the better part of a decade, giving our people greater work-life balance and choice. Covid-19 has truly accelerated the adoption of hybrid working as our ‘new normal’ and we’ve seen the benefits for our company, our customers and our people,” Mr Penn said.
Businesses with hybrid working have six per cent higher income, on average, are 22 per cent more likely to see higher productivity and are 28 per cent more likely to be innovative than those without hybrid working policies. They also have improved customer service and more engaged employees.
“This research proves hybrid working is enabling people to be more productive no matter how, when and where they work and means businesses have higher incomes and higher levels of innovation.”
The report also found hybrid working could provide a critical boost to Australia’s economy by increasing labour force participation and productivity in an environment where population growth slows.
“Hybrid working is not just a boost for business but also Australia’s economy more broadly, which could grow by more than $18 billion with 42,000 extra full-time jobs created over the next decade.
“Removing barriers to work creates more opportunities for mums and dads with young kids, people with disabilities or caring responsibilities, Indigenous Australians and those living in regional and remote parts of Australia as we open up the talent pool to more people,” Mr Penn said.
The research was undertaken for Telstra by Deloitte Access Economics and researchers from the Australian National University, providing quantitative analysis using business modelling with ABS data covering 7,000 organisations and a survey of 1,250 business leaders and employees.
The findings are supported by hybrid working policies already in place at some of Australia’s leading companies including Telstra, BHP, Microsoft, Commonwealth Bank, and Officeworks.
“Working remotely has been possible for a long time but Covid-19 has sparked a tectonic shift among Australia’s leading employers and executives who now realise the power and potential of hybrid work,” Mr Penn said.
“With huge staff upheaval and record turnover internationally, top talent is now demanding true flexibility from their employers and hybrid work is one way we can change the workplace experience for the better.
“We know hybrid working is going to be critically important to attract and retain top talent and demonstrate that workplaces and managers understand the seismic shift Covid-19 has caused to the traditional workplace relationship.”
Mr Penn said the report findings show there were three factors for success regardless of industry.
“Leaders need to make bold and deliberate choices to suit their workplaces and their people, so they strengthen the ties they have with their employees. They need to know where to invest and they need to stay committed, while evolving their approach as they learn and listen to employee feedback.
“This also means investing in the right tools, technologies, policies, and employee support to unlock the real benefits hybrid working can bring.
“We know hybrid working isn’t without its challenges and managing the experiences of employees from onboarding and cyber security to collaboration and even mental health considerations will be crucial to this new way of working.
“We need to be bold and not squander the opportunity to think differently, to not just recover but recover stronger by building more resilient, more digital and more future-ready organisations.
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, out of one of the most disruptive events of the last century, to choose whether we look back to what we knew or look ahead to what’s possible with a hybrid work future fit for purpose in the digital age. It is a moment we must not waste,” Mr Penn said.