A COVID-fuelled revolution to the way Australians work will define the next decade of business, according to research by a well-known demographer.

Whatever side of the fence you sit on, hybrid work is here to stay: Australians will simply not let it go, predicts Bernard Salt AM.

“Australians have long had a penchant for lifestyle, and the big shift to hybrid working meant we adapted in order to have greater control over work hours, patterns and environments,” he said.

His research into how work and life has evolved over the past 100 years, and what the future holds, mark the 100-year-anniversary of the first use of the term ‘workflow’.

The research came about after ServiceNow commissioned The Demographics Group and Bernard Salt to analyse the history of work in Australia, marking 100 years of workflow, and to forecast shifts in work and life.

The research explored the massive social and cultural disruption of the pandemic during work from home orders and highlight the use of digital collaboration tools to support this sudden change.

Digitising and automating tasks and creating digital workflows, will underpin much of the next decade’s work transformation, he said.

Work from anywhere

Tech giant Atlassian has gone all in on the work-from-home front, implementing its new ‘Team Anywhere’ policy for it’s 5,700 staff around the world.

Meanwhile, Google has revealed it could cut pay for remote workers, with those with long commutes potentially hardest hit.

Facebook and Twitter have location-based packages, which pay lower salaries to workers who move to cheaper areas.

Meanwhile, research from Deloitte Australia and ServiceNow found that professionals spend 27 per cent of their time on admin tasks that aren’t their main job.

If employees spent just one hour less on routine tasks each week, the uplift to employee engagement would create an estimated $46 million in additional profits for the average enterprise, it found.

Work tasks will divide into concentration tasks done at home, and training, deal-doing and collaborating tasks in the office.

And changes to the way we work are so critical, that in the next decade, social protocols may emerge to control the working environment.

“It will become socially unacceptable to send emails after business hours. There is a danger in working from home that workers may see themselves as being on call 24/7. We need to protect against that either by agreement, or by regulation.”

The winners take it all

Eric Swift, vice president and managing director ANZ at ServiceNow adds that companies that succeeded during the pandemic were those that had digital workflows in place to keep work, processes and projects moving – even in the face of challenges from distributed teams and operational disruptions.

“Australian businesses have a stark choice.

“Embrace the workflow revolution to unlock talent and skills in their business, and attract new talent, or in this hyper-competitive market, they risk losing out,” he said.

“Digital workflows automate repetitive tasks, so employees can spend more time on creative and fulfilling work, like strengthening relationships and solving problems.

“This elevates the employee experience, while increasing productivity and profitability,” Swift said.

The analysis by The Demographics Group was based on workshops, secondary research and Salt’s own experience and expertise, in collaboration with ServiceNow. Meanwhile, Salt’s research highlights three new trends:

  • Hybrid is here to stay, at scale: Businesses will need to adapt to widespread and long-term working from anywhere and working from home. Leaders will need to invest in hybrid wellbeing policies and technologies that connect teams across silos.
  • A trust reset: The pandemic has reshaped attitudes to authorities, and technology will help build trust through transparency and traceability. Workers will expect to be connected and protected and there will be greater demand for real-time access to information and updates.
  • The pursuit of seamlessness, in everything: Technology will minimise the mundane and maximise the use of time at work and home. Digital delegation will take off at work, as admin is outsourced to digital tools.