We’ve all heard it, so I’m not going to reiterate it here, but COVID and the various lockdowns and restrictions have certainly changed the way most Australians work. As shared corporate offices start fading into distant memory, and loungewear became workwear, Zoom fatigue and virtual office scavenger hunts have become the norm. 

There is a sense, as many of us in Australia adopt ‘Zoom on top: lounge on the bottom’, and try to educate our children at home, that many businesses are waiting for everything to ‘just go back to normal’ once COVID is ‘all over’. 

But how realistic is this, really? The years-long reality of COVID aside, how many of us want to go back to spending a decent chunk of our productive hours navigating traffic so we can be a bum on a seat? Can work life as we knew it, created a century ago by Ford at the height of capitalist fervour, be anything more than an outdated office paradigm? 

I’d argue it’s never going to go back to ‘normal,’ and more importantly, we don’t want it to. 

The time for the 9-5 office is over 

This outdated way of looking at work is not only ancient, it is also exclusionary. It excludes women, parents, people who don’t live in a capital city - essentially it excludes pretty much everyone bar unencumbered bachelors, or couples fortunate enough to have a stay-at-home partner, grinding out the unpaid domestic and emotional labour while they concentrate on out of home work. 

It also excludes anyone whose best, most efficient, and creative times do not fit into these ‘set’ working hours and locations. 

People are diverse, and if one thing has become clear, it’s once the commute was moot, we found out what hours of the day we get most of our work done. Some of us are night owls, some like to work early in the morning while the kids are asleep, some like to break it up into chunks with their personal life in between.  

It’s become increasingly obvious it doesn’t matter when or where the workday is done, just so long as it is done well, and in a way to suit individuals and the teams they sit within. As we say: work is a thing you produce, it’s not a place you go. 

The great resignation 

Employees want their workplace experiences to mirror the seamless, flexible experiences in their personal lives. We are a convenience society – and it is limiting to think this wouldn’t end up being important in our work, too. 

Fortune recently reported on ‘The Great Resignation’ - the career change being undertaken by younger generations who are dissatisfied with the experience being offered to them by traditional business models. 

We’ve seen this shift at Hotwire, too. The pandemic has forced many people to stop and take stock of their lives and ask if they are really happy with their workplace and career.  

Fortune reports 66% of Gen Z, and 73% of millennials, are switching work to have more control over their schedules, and to have the option to work remotely. 

According to this new study from Adobe, more than half of Gen Z workers plan to pursue a new job in the next year—more than any other generation, because they are the least satisfied generation at work. 

This isn’t limited to younger generations, the ABC recently reported workers over 60 are the most likely to want to work remotely moving forward, and new research from the Melbourne Institute suggests flexible work conditions, such as part-time hours, are a driving factor in the career decisions of women. 

Therefore, businesses looking to attract and retain these vital generations of the workforce will need to significantly re-evaluate their expectations around the physical location of their workers and what hours it is necessary for them to work. 

A recent report by McKinsey backs up this assertion. It reports when considering only remote work which can be done without a loss of productivity, about 20% to 25% of the workforces in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week. This is around four to five times more remote work than before the pandemic. 

You keep saying ‘flexible work’ but I don’t think it means what you think it means 

‘Flexible work’ policies are as ubiquitous as loungewear at the moment. While the intention may be good, the way they are implemented is mostly not. 

Hotwire is finding these policies are often implemented first, with workers expected to then fall into what are deemed by the organisation as flexible work hours or locations. This might be different shifts, or breaks during the day, or break up of in-office and at-home work - but they are mandated without being inclusive. Mandatory ‘different’ or ‘flexible’ hours and locations is no different than mandating 9-5 in an office, because employees have had about as much input. 

The policies are also being implemented with no structure or boundaries around them, meaning now, employees can be left in a situation where they’re expected to be available at all times of the day and night, because ‘flexible’ - leading to massive burnout. Flexible work needs to be a whole of employee experience, not a narrow approach to hours or location. 

‘Thoughtful working’, a philosophy Hotwire implemented at its inception, is the idea of allowing employees to work in the hours and from the location of their choosing. Because not everyone wants to work from home, and not everyone wants to work a solid eight-hour block in a day. 

More than flexible work, it recognises work is a thing you produce, not a place you go. It encourages our team members to work wherever and however they are most effective and productive. This is also backed by training in boundary-setting, prioritisation, home office set up, and work/life balance. This allows us to hire people for what they can do, not because of who they are or where they can work. 

Thoughtful Working made the transition to remote working effortless for us last year, and we will be continuing to use it well beyond this year because it works well for all involved. By trusting our employees completely, we have seen outstanding work and commitment from them, and our employees reported an improved NPS for wellbeing in a challenging time. 

The added boon for us is drawing on the previously unseen expertise of working parents, people living in remote or rural communities, and those who are studying. 

We love celebrating these diverse experiences, because we’re a bunch of bright sparks, bound by an irrepressible spirit of mateship. We take an irreverent approach to creativity; sparking big ideas in communications, branding, content, copywriting, digital marketing, and PR. Find out what it’s like to make the technical irresistible with a career at Hotwire.