While businesses had adopted flexible working arrangements for some time, 32 per cent of Australians worked from home during the height of the COVID-19 crisis. Leading parcel delivery service CouriersPlease (CP) was one company whose flexible work arrangements prior to shutdowns were reserved for a few, before becoming one of the first companies in the logistics industry to move its head office and support team to home-based work – a move that only 15 per cent of the transport industry made at the time. Now, CP has made the permanent shift to a hybrid working model for its 400 employees, a move its CEO believes will foster company culture and boost productivity.
CP CEO Mark McGinley cites the productivity employees maintained while working from home last year as the crux of this decision. “The new video teleconferencing culture has proven that it isn’t necessary to be in the same room to have effective and open communication in an organisation. People can work just as effectively, if not more productively, at home. However, they do still crave face-to-face interactions. Towards the end of last year, three-quarter of Australians were missing the energy of their workplace. In this way, the hybrid work model, where employees work both in the office and remotely, can prove successful.”
Mark believes it will be easier for companies to transition to hybrid working post-COVID. In fact, two-thirds of Australians believe a hybrid working model is the most productive, compared with working remotely or within the office exclusively.
Mark concludes: “This is a new norm that we’re naturally moving towards, given many Australians are already comfortable with home-based work. Businesses considering this model should focus on building company culture and creating a healthy work-life balance for employees.”
Mark shares four tactics for a successful hybrid working model:
- Consider mandating a day in the office to foster company culture. Having one or two mandated days in the office each week, set aside for social interaction and team building, can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation for those working remotely. On those days, businesses can schedule physical meetings, host team-building activities, share company news and celebrate employee achievements. This month at CP, we are introducing two days a week in the office, in which one of these days must be a Tuesday or Wednesday, to foster company culture. The move will help keep employees engaged and productive, boost team morale, and provide opportunities for in-person collaboration. We will also see many employees meet face-to-face for the time this month, as we doubled our staff last year while working remotely, after experiencing an 80 per cent growth in delivery volumes.
- Recognise and celebrate the efforts of employees. It can be difficult for employees to feel valued and recognised when working remotely. At CP, we introduced a ‘High Flyers’ employee of the month program, presenting staff members with awards across six categories: Trust, Transformation, Safety, Top Execution, One Team and Total Customer. An online and peer-led program, CP employees and leaders vote for the individuals they believe have gone above and beyond that month. Recognition programs such as these are a great option for many businesses, whether working remotely or in a hybrid environment. Companies that have moved exclusively to home-based work may reward staff with a food delivery or additional annual leave day. Even a call or message to say ‘thanks’ can go a long way.
- Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid working. Rather than mandating hybrid working arrangements company-wide, businesses could consider allowing team leaders to assess the performance of their individual team members as they work from home. Each leader could decide the employees they believe will be more productive with a part-time remote and office arrangement and those that thrive working from home full-time. Allowing team leaders to make these independent decisions for their departments will help maintain productivity and ease pressure on staff to work in an environment that isn’t ideal for them. It also shows trust in leaders to make the best decision for their teams. Some larger organisations are also giving employees a choice to work from home or in the office permanently or both. A financial services firm even surveyed its staff to gauge the environment they’d prefer to work in.
- Provide access to mental health support. The pandemic brought an increase in stress, and the transition to remote work was isolating. Last year, 55 per cent of employees said their workplaces weren’t taking action to address mental health, and those suffering from a mental health condition increased by nine per cent. Businesses need to have a mental health program in place that is easily accessible to support the wellbeing of employees. At CP, our mental health program, People Assist, is free and confidential for all staff, franchisees and contractors, offering general mental health counselling, financial planning, legal advice and family counselling, among others. Having a similar program in place that encourages employees to seek help in a safe and private environment will positively impact their mental health and productivity and engagement.
 Roy Morgan, June 2020 roymorgan.com/findings/8451-roy-morgan-working-from-home-june-2020-202006290638
 Superfriend, October 2020 superfriend.com.au/media-releases/indicators-of-a-thriving-workplace-2020/