The COVID-19 pandemic and shift to remote work has seen digital skills emerge as the number one priority for Australian office workers.

That was one of the main take takeaways from research by recruitment firm Adecco Group, which surveyed 8,000 office-based workers around the world – including 1,000 Australians – on their experiences working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital skills were seen as the top training priority needed after the pandemic for 69 per cent of all respondents.

In Australia, this figure was 73 per cent.

The research also found that more than half (59 per cent) of employees had improved their digital skills during the pandemic.

And the development of these skills in the workplace looks set to continue beyond the pandemic, with 69 per cent of respondents revealing that digital skills support and training will continue post-COVID-19.

“Digital skill shortages are among the biggest problems for many of our clients, especially as every four years’ people lose 30 per cent of their technical skills due to the environment changing so rapidly,” said The Adecco Group Australia CEO Rafael Moyano.

This renewed focus on digital skills could lead many into a career change, according to the research, with 35 per cent of Australian respondents confirming they plan to make a career change as a result of new skills they’ve learned.

Business (13 per cent) and technology (11 per cent) were the standout destinations for potential career changes.

“We know that skill acquisition itself is a key motivator to people when considering their next career move and this is also crucial for those aiming to deliver more value within their existing roles,” added Moyano.

If employers are looking to create a workforce with the right digital skills, they must rethink how they approach this training.

“As digitisation accelerates into the future, there is a clear business for ongoing re-skilling and upskilling,” says Adecco.

“It is time to view this as an investment in human capital that delivers clear ROI, rather than simply as a cost to organisations.

Inflexible about flexible work

Flexible work emerged as a key theme from the research, with three in four respondents calling for a mix of office-based and remote work.

“While flexible working was already on the rise, the pandemic lockdown propelled this once ‘emerging trend’ forward, and one of the biggest verifications from the research is that flexible working is here to stay,” says the Adecco report.

The optimal working model was revealed to be 50/50 split between time spent working remotely and in the office.

In Australia, some 83 per cent of workers said they had benefitted from flexible work, far higher than the global average of 73 per cent.

And this could soon be reflected in our contracts.

The majority (69 per cent) of workers said they feel like employee contracts should focus more on meeting the needs of the business, rather than the hours worked.

Additionally, 67 per cent said employers should revisit the length of the working week.

Pressure mounts on the IT department

With remote work set to continue in the future, there is a growing desire for companies to ensure their staff have the right tools and technical support.

While companies have traditionally directed the majority of their technology budget towards the office, workers now believe the focus should be on technologies that facilitate remote working.

Almost all (87 per cent) of the Australian workers surveyed believe that technology for remote work will be increasingly important.

The vast majority of Australian workers (83 per cent) said it was important for their company to ensure staff have the right equipment/platforms for remote working after the pandemic, while 79 per cent called for more investment into technology.

Unsurprisingly, 78 per cent said their company needs to improve their IT support for staff working remotely.