More than eight in ten Australian workers are against a return to ‘normal’ working life, with physical and mental wellbeing and work-life balance a key priority. The findings come from a new study by Skillsoft, a leading global provider of digital learning, training, and talent solutions to help organisations unleash their edge. 

The research was conducted online by YouGov between 30 July – 3August 2020 and comprised a nationally representative sample of 681 Australians, 758 Malaysians and 886 Singaporeans aged 18 years and older who are currently working or looking for work. The study examined employee expectations in a post-COVID workplace and found more than half rank work/life balance and health and safety (58 percent and 55 percent respectively) in their top three issues that they feel business leaders should be prioritising.

The habits adopted during COVID-19 lockdown could be here to stay, with 81 percent wanting at least one COVID-19 practice adopted permanently in their day-to-day lives.

Fewer than one in five (19 percent) are happy to return to how things were, with this figure even lower (7 percent) among workers aged 25-34.

Key findings: 

  • Among the top practices that Australian workers want to see introduced permanently, half would like more flexibility in their working hours (55 percent) and more time spent on their physical and mental well-being (49 percent)
  • Almost half want to continue working from home (48 percent).
  • Approximately one in three (31 percent) hope for more online learning and professional development opportunities.

Job Security and Personal Wellbeing In Focus 

The study further showed that Australia’s workforce appears more concerned about their own wellbeing than the success of their employer at this time, with 61 percent of workers ranking job security in their top three issues that they feel business leaders should be prioritising.

Meanwhile, more than half rank work/life balance and health and safety (58 percent and 55 percent respectively) in their top three issues. Only one in ten (11 percent) rank innovation among their top three issues to be prioritised by business leaders.

Rosie Cairnes, Vice President, Skillsoft APAC, stated, “It’s very interesting to see the emergence of a more inward mindset among workers in Australia, whether it is deciding when and how to work, improving diversity, prioritising family time over work, concern for personal health, or taking charge of their own professional development. “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 wellbeing and wellness must become a permanent focus, not just something that gets addressed during crisis.”

Greater Gender Balance and Support For Older Workers 

The report also showed the top two issues the Australian workforce wants their employers to support the most are:

  • hiring and supporting older workers (40 percent)
  • offering flexible work for parents of both genders (36 percent).

Interestingly, more men than women (23 percent vs 16 percent) want employers to support equal maternity and paternity leave.

Other important issues for Australia’s workforce are providing accessible options for people with disabilities (25 percent) and ensuring equal gender representation on the leadership team (24 percent).

“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,” Ms Cairnes said.

“In Australia there is a strong push for policies and practices that promote greater gender, age, and racial balance in the workplace. 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.”