That sense of expectation and desire for the future you’re feeling? It’s hope! As lockdown restrictions are eased in Melbourne tonight and New South Wales businesses indicate confidence in the economic recovery from COVID-19, now is a great time to pause, reflect and look forward to the future.

Our recent ‘Learning from lockdown’ survey suggests there’s a lot of good to be gained from our recent experiences, with 57% of people indicating they have improved resilience levels since COVID hit. While not all of us feel the same way, some people are currently thriving – meaning our average resilience levels and optimism for the future at work are currently up to 69% and 70% respectively.

Survey findings

The pandemic and accompanying restrictions have challenged us, but it’s encouraging to see that many survey respondents have found themselves to be performing well at work during this crisis. Many of those we surveyed want to retain some form of flexible/remote working to support a balance of productive time in the home office with collaborative time in the communal workplace.

 

About the survey

We recently conducted a small pulse-check survey to understand employee reflections on the shift to working from home and what we’ve learnt during lockdown. We received 260 anonymous survey responses from all over Australia. Nearly all respondents were currently employed (only 2 were not) and 84.16% of respondents were doing some form of remote working with 37.07% primarily at home while 42.86% had a mix of remote and office/on-site work. We asked people to rate their agreeance with a number of statements. We analysed the quantitative data and qualitative comments to identify some trends in what has improved our wellbeing and performance at work and what has not.

 

We’re more open about mental health and wellbeing at work

It’s very encouraging to see that 68.22% agree that their colleagues are communicating more openly about wellbeing and mental health since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This is fantastic for mental health awareness and reduction of stigma, especially when mental ill-health affects so many of us. Just over half agree (54.65%) their workplace wellbeing support programs have helped them to deal with changes, but there is still certainly opportunity to improve as 41% either disagree or are neutral on the impact their workplace support programs. (Note: We did not collect data on which programs people had access to, nor whether they’d participated in any of The Oranges Toolkit programs).

“I changed back into a leadership role and was able to use my learning from the Oranges toolkit to move to a positive work culture through random acts of kindness, celebrating success and actively pushing work/life balance”

 

What we’ve missed most during remote working

Respondents were asked to outline one thing that has not supported their wellbeing and performance at work. We were not surprised to see that the top scoring response was missing face-to-face interaction with peers. People cited the lack of ‘watercooler’ conversations and the missed ideas, connection and problem-solving that comes from incidental in-person interactions. While there are a variety of changes that have negatively affected wellbeing at work, there were also a number of people who actually suggested nothing had negatively affected them and they were doing the same or better than before.

top 5 negative impacts on performance after COVID

Survey respondents were asked to identify one change as a result of COVID-19 that has not supported their wellbeing and performance at work. From the 212 responses, we found:

  • Reduction of face to face interaction has affected the ability to connect and collaborate with peers (60/212)
  • Longer hours, increased workload and stress levels have resulted as the boundaries between work and home have blended and pressure has increased (28)
  • Nothing – respondents suggested they found the changes to be more productive and beneficial overall (26)
  • Lack of trust from management to work autonomously and lack of willingness to consider ongoing flexible work arrangements (15)
  • Increased digital communication and virtual meetings that are more time-consuming, less personal or ineffective (See our blog on beating Zoom fatigue here) (14)
  • A sense of isolation and lack of connection with others (working from home) (13)
  • Inconsistency and disruption to usual work practices (9)
  • COVID-safe compliance and restrictions are added stressors (7)
  • Uncertainty and worry about the virus itself (7)
  • Lack of management communication and support during the crisis (7)
  • Other (7)
  • IT/internet connectivity issues (6)
  • Distractions at home (while home-schooling) (5)
  • Budget cuts and financial pressure (4)
  • Desk-bound, lack of exercise (4)
  • Job insecurity (3)

“I have found it harder to stay in touch with colleagues, as there is less general ‘chit chat’ and you’re less likely to bump into someone and then use it as an opportunity to work through a work-related issue.”

“There has been a lot of passive-aggressive keyboard warrior stuff via Teams and email due to misunderstandings that would not have resulted if people had picked up the phone and spoken with each other”

“A lot of the time I am unmotivated because I am in the same place for days and days – working from home is great but the fact that I can rarely leave the house is what makes me unmotivated some days”

Future of work: Good things to hold onto from lockdown

Productivity levels have improved

When asked what one change has improved wellbeing or performance at work, many people suggested that the acceptance of flexible work practices has improved their balance between work and home/family life.

Many cited the ability to focus without distraction and noise (from open-plan and busy workplaces) as a boost to their productivity at work. Being at home has reduced travel time, freeing up more time to manage responsibilities outside of work and to enjoy time for family and self-care. The removal of the dreaded commute to work and all that this entails was also valued by many. And while some suggested the increased digital communication was not great for them in the prior question, others suggested they have seen improved team connection and communication during this time.

Top 5 changes benefitting performance at work

We asked what one change as a result of COVID-19 that had improved wellbeing or performance at work. From 219 responses, with some people citing more than one change, we found the following trends:

  • Acceptance of flexible work practices and better balance with home and family life (82)
  • Improved productivity while working from home due to less distractions, ability to focus and better engagement in the work (39)
  • No commute to work, less travel and stress, more time for other things (39)
  • Increased focus on wellbeing, mental health and looking out for each other (27)
  • Improved team connection and communication (meetings and check-ins) (20)
  • Improved IT systems and virtual communication tools (13)
  • Increased trust and autonomy, less micro-management (10)
  • Improved office and staff hygiene and people staying home when ill (10)
  • More opportunity to exercise, walk and eat well at home (9)
  • Increased consultation, support and communication from leaders and managers (9)
  • Nothing (9)
  • More family-friendly culture (3)

 

“The shift to working from home presented an abundance of positives. Better work-life balance, increased productivity, new technology that aids that productivity.”

“Being able work remotely has enabled me to pay full attention to what I want to do and achieve without being distracted.”

“I am highly demotivated by micromanagement, clock watching or second guessing. I am a committed professional with an eagerness and ability to do good work and I find being trusted to do so is highly motivating.”

 

Where to from here?

How do these survey findings align with your understanding and experience of those around you? It’s clear that we can gain value from pausing, reflecting and learning from our experiences. The next step is to make a clear action plan to continue to improve and grow, as both individuals and organisations. Resilience and wellbeing are skills that need to be developed on an ongoing basis so that we are equipped to positively embrace future challenges with an open and innovative mindset.

Our survey findings suggest that to maintain employee engagement and performance, employees and employers need to be agile in their approach, building a culture of trust and supporting workplace flexibility. Workplace wellbeing is inextricably linked to day-to-day work practices and therefore requires a whole-of-organisation approach.

 

Looking ahead to new ways of working

Many leaders are currently exploring the practicalities of how we all transition to new ways of working. This includes how our valuable face-to-face time together will be best used and how remote working can be applied to improve productivity whilst balancing the need for collaboration and team connectedness. As we do this, it’s important that we continue to acknowledge the ongoing volatility of our economy and society and its varying impact on individuals. It’s important to make sure we support psychological safety as more people return to the office.

The Oranges Toolkit will soon be sharing more strategies that managers and leaders can use to apply these findings and other recent research to work practices to boost engagement and performance levels. We are also offering a number of programs including ‘Fresh Start’ workshops to strengthen teams, optimism and resilience levels into 2021. If you’re not already subscribed to our newsletter, sign up below to stay informed or Contact Us.