Employers and employees give their verdict on flexible working

In collaboration with Bastion RM and Pitcher Partners, a survey by Bastion Insights has highlighted the benefits and pitfalls of working from home for both the employer and employee.


The COVID-19 directive to work from home if possible has accelerated flexible working arrangements in Victoria with employees enjoying the benefits of their new routine.

Bastion Insights’ Adapting to the New Normal: Hybrid Working 2021 report, released today, takes a detailed look at flexible working arrangements and how businesses can operate in the long-term.

Highlighting the value of the insights gained from the survey, Clare Gleghorn, CEO of Bastion RM said “what the survey highlights is some of the gaps in expectations for what hybrid working models should look like over the long-term and, if left unaddressed, could widen further.”

The flexible-work model

While working from home and flexible work arrangements became commonplace in 2020, especially for office workers and professional services, it simply was not an option for some such as tradespeople and public transport workers. With 38 per cent of surveyed workers unable to work from home, hybrid working models will not suit all businesses.

However, for those who were able to work from home, the concept of blurring the lines between the workplace and the home was initially met with reluctance.

Though more and more people have returned to the workplace for at least one day a week since the end of lockdown in September last year (32 per cent in September to 45 per cent in November), a staggering 68 per cent of workers would like to continue working from home.

With this large group of employees wanting to continue to work from home, coupled with the finding that 15 per cent of employers never expect their staff to return to the office, it is fair to say the workplace routine has changed forever.

The benefits

While the initial shift to working from home was met with some hesitation from both employees and employers, the benefits of working from home and flexible working arrangements have become apparent for both.

When surveyed about the benefits of flexible working arrangements, both the employers and employees nominated five key areas:

While a much larger proportion of employees cited saving money and time from their morning and evening commute (24 per cent), a slightly larger portion of employers than employees nominated the flexibility that remote working arrangements bring (30 per cent).

Though employers and employees agreed on most benefits, 15 per cent of employers noticed a distinct uplift in staff engagement and retention.

The challenges

While there was general consensus on the benefits of flexible working arrangements, there was a stark difference in identifying the negative implications. While 24 per cent of employees cannot identify any problems with flexible working arrangements, only 15 per cent of employers concurred.

When it came to the specific issues, employees and employers had divergent concerns.

Clearly for employees, the biggest frustration while working from home is the lack of comradery and isolation which is also more than likely to lead to the mentioned communication issues.

While lack of social interaction was also identified by employers, being able to monitor staff and oversee their work was their overwhelming concern.

The ‘new normal’?

While the aggregate may tell one tale, once the data is broken down into small and large businesses, a different story emerges. The survey results show larger businesses with more than 100 employees will be able to accommodate the new models.

Acting VCCI Chief Executive Dugald Murray acknowledged the survey’s findings.

“I doubt we will return to the pre-COVID-19 environment of working five days a week in the office. The most likely scenario for most office workplaces will be a blended model involving some work from home and some work from the office, for 2021 and beyond.”

“The Victorian Chamber hopes to see employers and employees sit down together to work out what is the best way to operate their workplace and that will differ across industries, workforce sizes and geographic locations. It is in the interests of both employers and employees to get the balance right and what we have seen so far is both parties’ enthusiasm to come up with innovative, yet workable, return to work plans.”

Help and support

The Victorian Chamber’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing team and Workplace Relations team are always available to assist you and your business identify the risks and hazards, and implementation of new protocols in your work environment.

For more information, HSW consulting, training and other support please contact the HSW team on 03 8662 5333 or hsw@victorianchamber.com.au to discuss your needs.

For assistance on any aspect of your employment obligations, please call the Victorian Chamber Workplace Relations Advice Line on (03) 8662 5222. 

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