The ever evolving shape of work

At ANZ we recognised the value of flexibility in the workplace in 2015.  That was when we formally introduced flexible working structures together with other initiatives to “loosen up” tradition, such as dressing for your day rather than wearing formal attire every day.

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Before COVID-19, around two thirds of our people were working in the office five days a week. Three weeks after coronavirus arrived in Australia we managed to get 90 per cent of our workforce, close to 36,000 people, effectively working from home.  I think this was truly a remarkable effort - and in part only possible because flexible working, more generally, was already part of our culture.

"This crisis has crushed pre-conceived ideas about which roles can work from home.” – Rita Newman

People have adapted, they’ve been productive and throughout we have continued to provide critical services to our customers and community. As a result, this crisis has crushed pre-conceived ideas about which roles can work from home, not just for ANZ but throughout the business sector. These lessons have delivered a quantum shift in how we think about building a working life during COVID and beyond.

Two underlying themes stand out however: more of our people will be working from home more often; but our offices will remain fundamentally important to our working lives. It will be a question of balance and structure to ensure people do their best work.

This needs to be thoughtful and deliberate and include tools and technology, culture and wellbeing, and how we use our workspace and homespace to support effective, healthy working regardless of location.

To get this right it’s important we continue to have an open dialogue with our employees and test our thinking with them as we progress. One of the ways we’re doing this at ANZ is by tapping into our Yammer network. Recently we encouraged all ANZ employees, across the globe, to participate in a week-long discussion on Yammer - to capture their ideas and views on how they want to work in the future. This is incredibly valuable input which will help shape what we do.

I’m really passionate about the opportunity ANZ has to optimise where, how and when work is done. If we leverage this period of change in how we are working and get the right balance between what our people are telling us they want and what the organisation requires to enable people to do their best work, it means we can better support our vision, strategy and aspirational culture.

However, as we shape our working lives at ANZ, we know that it needs to be grounded in some fundamental beliefs: 

1. A connection to ANZ’s purpose and culture is vital.

2. Working in teams matters. We do our best and most creative work when we collaborate.

3. Work is valuable. Our people’s identity and self-worth through their work allows them to feel fulfilled.

4. Our employees’ wellbeing and growth are important to us.

5. Our ANZ workplaces matter - and are particularly integral to creativity, problem solving and connection while enabling access to specialised tools and infrastructure.

6. Being agile and adaptable to respond to change is important.

Leadership will also be a critical factor in helping our people adapt to a future where more of us are working remotely more of the time. Workshops with our senior leaders have identified four key things that will help underpin success:

1. Our leaders must continue to be seen– whether in person or virtually - as this is critical to building team engagement and driving better outcomes. (Although we need to dig deeper into what it means it means to be visible and “seen”.)

2. A physical workplace plays a role in more ways than “just” providing space. It brings people together to foster in-person connections that cannot be achieved virtually

3. It is essential for leaders to be really deliberate about actions, mindset and behaviours – leaders will also need to work remotely to demonstrate to their teams it is acceptable to do so

4. People have shown they can be trusted to work remotely – let’s leverage this and assume a level of trust – we cannot prescribe a rule, process or guardrail for every scenario.

Much of the detail of the future of work remains to be discovered and we need to be adaptable. There will be trial and error. Our people will be key to testing, learning and helping us to shape the future. The model will evolve. We need to get the right balance between people and organisational needs. Understanding the trade-offs between productivity and other factors - which can be hard to measure - such as workload and prioritisation, wellbeing (including relationships, connectedness and growth and development), customer outcomes and innovation is a developing science. It is crucial through this period of evolution we listen to our staff and remain agile and willing to shift models.

The fundamental force in succeeding is trust. Any organisation going through this process needs everyone on board. That means communicating – over-communicating even – and establishing genuine dialogue while addressing any perceptions of management bias.

Of course, whether it be other workplace trends in years past, from time and motion studies to cubicles to hot desking, people are naturally curious, even sceptical, about what the future of work looks like while their expectations of work patterns are also changing.

When we think about the future of work, we need to ensure we are thinking about:

  • The safety and wellbeing of our People;
  • Retaining our Culture;
  • Helping our people perform and grow;
  • Determining the best use of our physical spaces how we use them, and
  • The enabling tools and technologies we use. 

Creating a future of work people want to be a part of improves our ability to attract and retain key talent; it gives us the ability to deliver better quality work; and, ultimately, deliver more sustainable returns for all our stakeholders.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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