Transitioning back to the office

By: Drake WellbeingHub


As much of Australia transitions to a COVID-normal at home and at work, many organisations are making the decision to transition their workers back to the office environment, either full-time or part-time.This can be daunting for workers, many of whom have spent the last two years working remotely. Many Australians are feeling uneasy and anxious about the transition back to office-working and organisations are being fronted with difficult decisions as to how they can best manage workers’ wellbeing without compromising on business goals and objectives. 

The global pandemic has had a great impact on the people’s health and wellbeing. Research has shown:

  • 78% of Australians report their mental health had worsened 
  • 80% felt very uncertain about the future 
  • 26% of people reported life would take more than a year to return to normal 
  • 16% felt that life would never return to normal

Despite people having adjusted to life alongside COVID, many are now being forced to face their fears head-on as they transition back to face-to-face work, where they can no longer avoid in-person meetings, shared office spaces and communal facilities, increased commute times and costly meals. 

Research indicates that up to three quarters of Australians are in favor of a hybrid model, with 90% wanting to continue working from home in some capacity. 16% of survey respondents prefer to work entirely remotely, from a location of their choosing. The challenge is that workers have had ample opportunity to prove an increase in productivity levels while working from home, yet many business leaders are still pushing for their workers to return to the office. 

Workplace culture, wellbeing and connection has been a challenge through the pandemic and many leaders believe that transitioning back to the office environment will help to bridge subsequent gaps. Though according to research by RingCentral in collaboration with Ipsos 77% believe they can build personal relationships with co-workers without ever physically meeting them, 76% feel that connecting online through voice or video calls is as good as in person for work-related tasks and 74% that connecting online through voice or video calls is as good as in person for building personal relationships with co-workers. This poses real questions about the need to enforce a complete transition back to full-time work in the office.

There are a range of reasons why workers are feeling uneasy about the transition back to the office. 

  1. Anxiety -  there is a lot of stress and anxiety around the return to the office. Workers are feeling uneasy being in an enclosed office environment with shared facilities and the possibility of coming in contact with a COVID-positive worker.
  2. Environmental impact - One of the biggest polluters in the world is cars, emitting 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Working from home poses no threat to the environment whereas conversely, driving to the office every day does.
  3. Commute - many workers save hours each day working from home. In addition to the commute time, many are uneasy about using public transport due to health risks and for those working in the CBD, there may be no other option for transportation. 
  4. Work-life balance - many have found a far better work-life balance whilst working from home. Especially with the time saved commuting, there is far more time in the day to juggle family, exercise, cook nutritious meals and tend to life admin, without encroaching on work hours. 
  5. Lack of support - recent Seek insights revealed that 1 in 4 of those transitioning back to the office have been offered mental health support or personal care products such as masks. If we don’t effectively support our workers in this transition period, how can we expect a positive outcome?

For our business leaders, it is important to include your workers in the decision to transition back to the office. Your workers are your organisations greatest asset. We know from various research studies that if an office return is enforced, approximately half of workers may comply and return though the other half will comply and start looking for a new job or quit right away. We also know that workers are just as  productive working remotely. The last two years has offered endless opportunities to innovate and develop new processes and implement new systems, to enable effective and efficient work-from-home. Why break something not broken?

If you’d like to support your workers through this transitional period, or better find a way to better understand the needs of your workforce, contact our Drake WorkWise team. We have a Transition back to the office programme designed to help you and your workers through this challenging period.


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