Hybrid working from home, office may be here to stay post-COVID-19 pandemic

"I can work from home, it doesn't matter. As long as you have a sale then they have got the money and they are happy."
"I can work from home, it doesn't matter. As long as you have a sale then they have got the money and they are happy." Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

By Leah Tebbutt for RNZ 

The era of hybrid working could be upon us for good as inner city businesses invite employees back into the office.

TradeMe data shows an increase of more than 200 percent in listings that mention 'work from home' in the description.

So how keen are staff to return to the office?

Or is the bach still competing with the workplace?

Eli works in IT and said the nature of his role meant he had to stay in the office to support those around him.

"I do like working from home and if it was a choice, I would do it."

He is one of many people enjoying some lunchtime fresh air outside the hustle and bustle of his Auckland office - although he tells me the city's not as busy as it used to be.

Auckland's Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett would like to see more businesses bringing their employees back.

"Probably the best thing that could happen in the city right now is if government and government agencies all brought their people back.

"Government is the largest employer so if they brought their people back that would make a difference to what is happening in the centre of Auckland."

Retail and hospitality businesses need foot traffic to survive - and central or local government offices can lead the charge by bringing their workers back, he said.

But times have changed, and he noted no business was likely to operate as it did pre-pandemic.

"One thing employers have learnt is there is a huge amount of trust in each other, and I think the outcome of that is people are going to work some days in the office and some days at home."

TradeMe data showed a work-life balance was now a priority for most employees, with 62 percent of survey respondents stating it was the most important factor in an ideal role.

Jobs Sales Director Matt Tolich said in April 2021 there was a 213 percent increase in the number of job listings that mentioned 'work from home' in their description when compared with the same month in 2020.

"We're still seeing remarkable increases in the number of roles that offer flexible working. Last month we saw a 77 percent year-on-year increase in number of job listings that mentioned 'work from home' in the description.

"With work-life balance top of mind for job seekers, employers need to consider flexible and remote working options, and be clear about these from the outset."

At ANZ's peak, about 7000 out of 8000 employees were working from home.

Head of talent and culture Michelle Russell said she hoped the 35 percent who have come back to the office will increase to 70 percent when she formally calls them back later this month.

"There's a lot of people who have started with ANZ in the past couple of years that actually haven't physically met their team members, so they're only artificial relationships at best.

"I think that whole learning environment and learning from each other, collaborating, is just so much richer when you can do it in person."

Russell said having people in the office meant fewer meetings which streamlines their processes.

However, people on the streets of Auckland today were divided.

Ming worked in property and said his employer was flexible.

"I can work from home, it doesn't matter. As long as you have a sale then they have got the money and they are happy."

However, Nina said she had been able to work from home even before the pandemic.

"It was a difficult transition going straight from working from home to back in the office but having those couple of days where I can work from home really does help."

Anna Hill said she had been working to revitalise many workplaces in order to entice workers back.

The lead interior designer for Jasmax, an architectural firm, said respite space in workplaces were key.

"The office is competing with the cool cafe down the road, your beach house or even the library.

"It's not just an office space we need to design, we need to design this whole mixed use of function that can cater to every type of work you want to do in a day."

She said it went further than simply introducing plants into the workspace.