In June-July 2020, when many Australian states and territories were in lockdown, researchers conducted a survey of Australian Public Service (APS) employees, in partnership with the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU). They wanted to know who was working from home, how work was being conducted remotely, and the impact on employees and managers. The findings were released in the report, Working during the pandemic: from resistance to revolution.
In September-October 2021, at another peak in the contagion, they conducted a further survey. Many of the participants were in lockdown (in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory). Employees were again working away from the office.
There has been a significant shift in approaches to working from home. The conversation has progressed from pre-pandemic resistance to working from home, to 2020 questions about whether working from home would become ‘the new normal’, to 2021 questions about how organisations and employees can implement hybrid arrangements that combine working from home and at the office. The normalising of working from home, however, has come at a cost. Researchers found that employees, supervisors and managers experienced ‘COVID-fatigue’, leading to burnout and stress. While this is not surprising after almost two years of lockdowns and uncertainties, it does highlight employee wellbeing as an important consideration in future arrangements. However, some of the COVID-fatigue is just that – it is attributable to the pandemic. Without overarching factors such as enforced working from home and home schooling, hybrid working can be a very successful working arrangement.
This additional research confirms that many managers continue to actively support working from home and expect to do so in the future, confirming the 2020 findings that managerial resistance is waning. In this report, the authors outline the benefits, but also the risks and negativities associated with this form of working. They set out their findings and provide tips for organisations, managers, and employees as the APS considers future ways of working in a COVID-normal environment.