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Making the workplace COVID safe: Survey shows transformation underway as Australia prepares to get back to the office

Almost 50% of workplaces have been reorganised in order to meet social distancing requirements, a Governance Institute of Australia member survey has found, with a further 37% currently considering or working on implementing an office overhaul.

The ‘pulse check’ survey of 265 governance and risk management executives has revealed the depth of the impacts of COVID-19 on corporate Australia — and the transformation currently underway in many workplaces as a result.

It found that 47% of the workplaces of respondents have re-organised their office layout in order to meet official social distancing requirements, and that shared desks or office equipment have been banned by more than half.

In further evidence of a pandemic-inspired workplace overhaul, the survey by independent research agency Survey Matters found that half of employer’s have implemented flexible working conditions to enable people to work from home if they wish to continue doing so and 41% have introduced a staggered return to the office.

A further 52% are currently considering or working on implementing their staggered returns.

Governance Institute of Australia CEO Megan Motto said the pandemic served to speed up the move to flexible work — and it is essential not to unwind the new level of flexibility with the return to the office.

“There is a high level of excitement and positivity emerging about the return to the business office, but in that excitement we need to hold on to the massive steps that have been undertaken in terms of boosting workplace flexibility,” Ms Motto said.

“It is important to manage according to outcomes — not according to the hours that someone is sitting at their desk in the CBD. It is important that we refresh our way of thinking about the working world — on a permanent basis.”

The COVID-19 Member Impact Survey also found that 44% expect COVID-19 will impact their income. And among those, 31% have already seen a drop in their hours or income — and nine per cent have either lost their job or had their business close.

But while there is great concern for the broader economy, less are as worried for their own profession.

While 86% of members said COVID-19 is a high or very high threat to the Australian economy, only 40% believe it poses the same threat to their profession.

Ms Motto said the survey shows there is still a great deal of uncertainty, mixed with some important glimpses of positivity for the future.

“We are currently in unchartered territory and governance and risk managers have a huge role to play in navigating this,” Ms Motto said. “This survey provides important insights into the key concerns for the profession and corporate Australia more widely.”


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