One year back in the office post-COVID lockdown – how has our worklife changed?

Single pink chair against pink background

4 minutes read

August marks one year since non-essential workers began returning to offices around the country after an extensive period of working from home.

It was a massive, unprecedented shift in the zeitgeist of Australian work culture.

Overnight, bustling office buildings were relegated to ghost town status as millions of workers established home setups and adapted to a monumental new way of doing things.

But, as we soon discovered, transitioning back to the office after working from home was about more than just picking up where we left off.

A desire for a ‘return to normal’ was usurped by the need to create a ‘new normal’ for office workers more aligned with the realities imposed by a global pandemic.

Social distancing requirements and mandatory mask-wearing has rendered the traditional face-to-face meeting format inert, replaced by Zoom and Teams meetings.

As the amount of in-person office contact decreases, there is a greater onus on employers to adapt their workplaces and adopt a more flexible culture. A year on, it’s worth reflecting on how office life and workplace culture has changed.

Among the innumerable challenges presented to employers and companies by COVID-19 – loss of income, impacted supply chains, interrupted schedules – perhaps the most crucial to face was how to manage a decentralised workforce.

Where managers and supervisors could previously oversee daily operations in person, their teams were now scattered and isolated from one another.

The key to survival is innovation; adaptation is the very basis of evolution. How well an organisation fares during these times is reflected in their ability to respond to challenges and adapt their procedures accordingly.

At Aruga, utilising remote technology and reviewing company policies on how employees get their work done helped achieve genuine workplace flexibility, where working from home isn’t considered a last resort but a daily occurrence.

Aruga Co-Founders Donna Kramer and Adam Brunes established the company with flexibility as a priority. Donna says the most significant impact is showing employees they are trusted to manage their own workloads and schedules.

“We encouraged flexible working long before COVID, but it has reached new heights. Most Aruga team members work from home one or two days a week, and many vary their start and finish times to suit their lifestyle. We have never been clock-watchers; we just ask that the work is delivered by team members to clients before the deadline.”

Adam concurs, adding that achieving genuine workplace flexibility is a win for both parties.

“As agency owners, we’ve built an environment and agency culture based on how we like to work and be treated as professionals. When reflecting on all the things that had made us both leave jobs in the past, almost always it was inconsequential things that had no bearing on our ability to do our job well – hard start times, dress codes, rigid work conditions. The key to team satisfaction and success is flexibility.”

From a human resources perspective, this course of action requires employers to put greater trust in employees. There is little, if any, scrutiny of team members who elect to work from home, be it for health reasons, family commitments, or simply because it’s their preferred way to work.

This refreshed attitude helps dismantle the perceived stigma of an underperforming worker attached to not making regular appearances in the office.

A year on from a return to the office, working from home is the very definition of the ‘new normal’. Flexibility has been promoted from a perk of the job to a requirement.

Ultimately, these in-roads show a national decline of presenteeism where workers clock in for the sake of appearances. A well cared-for employee is far more obliging to the demands of a job than one grappling with uncertainty and isolation.

The results speak for themselves: employees who feel more valued by their employers deliver higher standards of work, not because they must but because they want to.

As the saying goes: bricks and mortar make a house, people make a home. A workplace is no different.

A company’s true worth lies in the value it places on the health and wellbeing of its employees, particularly in globally troubling times.

Anyone who has experienced the negative impacts of a toxic workplace culture will attest to the importance of feeling secure and supported to perform their best.

If companies are looking to survive and prosper in the shifting climate, it’s time to limber up and exercise some administrative progressive thinking to make their workplaces more flexible.

Want to know more about how we roll at Aruga? Find out about our work-life balance and culture creds  – check us out here.