More than two-thirds (68%) of Australians say they prefer to work from home, according to research from Brother Australia; however, companies are increasingly mandating the need for employees to be back in the office full-time.

Brother Australia people and culture business partner, Ashley Dick has shared her thoughts on this recent push for a return to office, exploring the pros and cons, and tips for employers deciding whether or not to change their work policies.

No two employees are the same, and hybrid work allows individuals to take ownership of where (and sometimes when) they complete work in a way that suits them, according to Dick, which can often have positive benefits on work life balance, resulting in happier and more engaged employees.

“Similarly, for many businesses, I believe the introduction of hybrid work has presented a great opportunity to think differently about how work gets done, why we do things the way that we do, and how we can support our teams to come up with new ways of working to achieve the best results,” Dick told Appliance Retailer.

“For example, by introducing effective virtual collaboration tools, businesses can break down barriers between people in different teams, offices, and across borders to work together to achieve results.   

“With hybrid work on offer, businesses are not as limited by geography when recruiting and can therefore better attract and retain talent from a wider pool of candidates. The option of working from home can also make work more accessible for many people who traditionally may have had difficulty attending a physical workplace, resulting in more diverse workforces.”

A challenge of hybrid working is that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will likely not work, according to Dick.

“For example, some people may not want to work from home at all, others may feel uncomfortable coming into the office, and there may be some roles in the business where hybrid work is not feasible. This can cause challenges for leaders and businesses when engaging with their teams,” she said.

“If not managed well, hybrid work can also result in a lack of connection within and across teams who may miss out on those spontaneous and informal (but important) chats in the hallway or in between meetings. Although improved work life balance is a key benefit for many hybrid workers, for some, work can easily creep into personal time when there are no physical boundaries between home and work and it is important for businesses to be aware of this and to support employees to maintain boundaries between work and home.”

Tips for employers:

Dick believes people leaders need to understand their teams and what motivates and engages them. 

“Taking a ‘one-size fits all’ approach may not be the answer. Now more than ever, leaders and businesses need to take the time to really ‘get’ their people and think differently about how and when to bring people together (either face to face or virtually) to maintain the culture they want,” she said.

“Communication is key – when employees and leaders have channels to speak openly about issues with hybrid working, they can be acknowledged and addressed.

“Whatever a business decides to do regarding hybrid/flexible working policies, I think the most important thing is to maintain clear, two-way communication. Businesses should be prepared to clearly communicate why they are making a change to their policies and listen to employee feedback.

“Employers may receive push-back from employees on any changes to WFH/office policies. Try to bring team members along for the journey – keep communication channels open to encourage employees to share feedback and suggestions and try to work with them to address concerns.”