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COVID-19 defined work practices may be here to stay, new study shows

By Catherine Knowles
Tue 8 Sep 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

COVID-19 has resulted in significantly changed work practices across APAC, including greater flexibility and more focus on mental wellbeing, practices that workers want to retain moving forward.

This is according to a new report released by Skillsoft that's based on a survey of more than 2,300 workers or people looking for work across Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

The report examined employee expectations in a post-COVID workplace and found that 89% want at least one COVID-19 practice adopted permanently in their day-to-day lives. On average, just 11% of respondents are happy to return to how things were.

The top practices that workers want to see introduced permanently are flexibility in their working hours (59%) and working from home (58%), with almost half wanting more time dedicated to their physical and mental well-being (47%) and increased family time (47%).

In additon, more than four in ten respondents are eager for a reduction in unnecessary work meetings (45%) and fewer outside commitments (43%), while 38% want more online professional development and learning opportunities.

Women are more likely than their male counterparts to want more time spent on their physical and mental well-being (51% versus 43%) and fewer outside meetings commitments (48% compared to 38%).

The younger workforce is more likely than their older counterparts to want increased family time (57% among 18-24 years, versus 47% for 50-64 years and just 37% for 65+).

Interestingly, close to one third (31%) of respondents also want to see less business travel adopted permanently.

Job security and personal well-being was a big theme of the study.  In fact, 27% of workers ranked health and safety as the number one issue they want business leaders to be prioritising.

Other important issues for workforces in Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia are job security and work/life balance, with more than half (56% respectively) ranking these issues in their top three to be prioritised. Only 12% rank innovation among their top three.

Skillsoft vice president for APAC Rosie Cairnes says, “It’s very interesting to see the emergence of a more inward mindset among workers across APAC - whether it is deciding when and how to work, prioritising family time over work and travel, concern for personal health, or taking charge of their own professional development. There is a resounding rejection of the old order.

“The COVID period has created a trend that extends beyond flexible workplaces, toward genuine self-care. For companies to reach the other side of this pandemic in a good place, employee well-being and wellness must become a permanent focus, not just something that gets addressed during crisis.”

The report also showed the top two issues the APAC workforce wants their employers to support the most are offering flexible work for parents of both genders (38%) and hiring and supporting more older workers (33%).

Other top line issues include providing more learning and development around racial diversity (29%), ensuring equal gender representation on the leadership team, supporting equal maternity and paternity leave, and monitoring, reporting, and working to close the gender pay gap (25% respectively).

Women are more likely than their male counterparts to want their organisation to address their gender pay gap (28% compared to 21%) and ensure equal gender representation on the leadership team (28% versus 20%).

Similarly, workers aged 18-34 years are more likely than their older counterparts to report supporting equal maternity and paternity leave (34% compared to 25% for 35-49 years, 14% for 50-64 years and just 8% among people aged over 65).

Interestingly, four in ten (38%) workers aged 18-24 years rank learning and development around racial diversity as the issue they want organisations to support the most – significantly higher than all other age groups.

On this Cairnes says, “Globally the pandemic has brought many of society’s inequities to the fore, and in some cases given people of a taste of how things can work better, particularly in terms of caring responsibilities.

“Across APAC there is a strong push for policies and practices that promote greater gender, age, and racial balance – and this push is only going to grow louder as more young people enter the workforce.

"Organisations that rethink their hiring and policies and focus their future learning and development in these areas stand to benefit hugely in terms of available talent, employee engagement, and retention.”

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