Almost 1 in 3 Australian companies say they are currently dealing with high staff turnover, as employees re-evaluate work post-pandemic

Almost 1 in 3 Australian companies say they are currently dealing with high staff turnover, as employees re-evaluate work post-pandemic
  • A raft of new research exploring employee and business perspectives on the future of work exposes a massive gap in perspectives.
  • One new survey found 85% of employees said they wanted to continue to work from home or retain flexible working practices.
  • Experts say this could be behind the recent surge in job-hopping by Australian workers.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Dissonance between employers’ desire to return to the status quo and the shift in employee expectations around work since the start of the pandemic may be behind a jump in staff turnover, according to a raft of new research into workplace trends.

A survey by financial services firm Findex of more than 500 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) found that over half of firms are concerned about their ability to retain staff over the next 12 months. 

At the same time, new CSIRO research shows one in five Australians plan to continue working from home at least part of the week, a factor experts say will impact their perspectives on employment looking forward. 

Findex’s research showed that a third of SMEs have recorded a drop in staff satisfaction this year. 

Despite the popularity of working from home, almost two thirds of businesses want their staff back in the office for most of the working week.

In contrast, 85% of employees said they wanted to continue to work from home or retain flexible working practices.

And over half of the organisations surveyed said they had not consulted staff on their preferred working arrangements — and did not plan to do so. 

CSIRO’s research reveals not only the overwhelming transformation of how and where employees work, but the extent to which these working habits were unlikely to revert back to pre-pandemic norms. 

The study, which analysed NBN internet data of more than eight million households, census data and ABS surveys, revealed a sharp rise in the number of people working from home. 

It found that while one in 20 people worked from home before the pandemic, this has increased to nearly one in five this year. 

Cities that experienced longer outbreaks had a higher proportion of people who continued to work from home outside of lockdowns, it found, with 28% of workers in Melbourne and 27% in Sydney working from home in May and June.

By contrast in Perth, which has experienced 12 days in total of lockdowns, 18% continued to work from home. 

Shift to remote work led by tech workers

CSIRO’s research also found the number of people working remotely in areas including the Southern Highlands, Byron Bay in NSW and the Sunshine Coast in Queensland had increased.

People with jobs in business and IT were among those most likely to continue working from home, followed by workers in arts and media, architects, finance and insurance clerks, and marketing. 

Interestingly the report suggested people in managerial positions, who worked from home at high levels early in the pandemic, had rushed back to the office at a greater rate than many others. 

CSIRO economist Dr Andrew Reeson said there were lessons in the finding that at a time most people felt safe to return to their workplaces, many continued working from home for at least part of the week.

“The report provides a snapshot of a unique moment in our history and gives an insight into some of the changes we may see emerge over the next 12 months,” Reeson said. 

“We have observed that a lot of people are clearly comfortable working from home.”

An employee perspective shift

Recent trends have prompted a conversation around whether Australia is following the U.S. into what has been dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’.

A record 4.4 million Americans quit in September this year, amounting to 3% of workers and following almost six months since a surge of resignations hit the labour market.

However, most current research conducted in the local job market suggests this is not the case. Instead, employees are transitioning to new jobs at the fastest pace since the start of the pandemic, with the number of workers changing jobs up 26% in October compared with the same month in 2019.

Jane Betts, chief people officer at Findex, said the revelation that 60% of employers would like their employees to “never or rarely” work from home when businesses open up showed many companies had a blind spot around what employees were seeking from their jobs post-pandemic.

“It’s clear there’s a big disconnect,” Betts said, adding, “What matters most to employees is very different in a post-COVID world, particularly when it comes to work-life balance and flexible working.”

While almost nine in 10 employees wanted to continue to work from home or retain flexible working practices, “our data shows employers want the opposite and for teams to return back to the office for most, if not all, of the working week,” she said. 

“In an environment of skill shortages, immigration restrictions and greater talent mobility, hiring is becoming increasingly challenging. 

“Businesses should be looking to do everything in their power to retain their current workforce.”