It would be easy to assume that the shift we’re seeing in the way people work has been driven entirely by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that assumption would be wrong. 

The pandemic has certainly had a dramatic and permanent effect, but it’s merely accelerated a trend that’s been underway for several years, as organisations progressively transition away from a shared physical environment to wherever is most convenient and productive for staff to work. Businesses across Australia are now leading with a ‘hybrid’ way of working: at home, a local office and occasionally at corporate HQ. 

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in August of 2021, more than 40% of employed Aussies were working from home, with professional workers and managers working from home the most (at 65%) compared to other occupations. The WFH shift has been significant, but not absolute. Offices and commercial working spaces will still play a critical role in the future of Australia’s workforce.  

Across states like NSW and Victoria, where working from home was recently a requirement, state governments and businesses are now encouraging their workers to return to the office. So as the nation continues to adapt to our evolving “new normal,” one thing is clear – offices are here to stay, but it’s a new breed, the hybrid office, that will prevail. 

Here are five trends that we believe will shape work in 2022 and beyond: 

Hyper flexibility 

Working from home was something that had to be negotiated, and often employers were hesitant for people to do so. Having an inflexible blanket rule that compelled everyone to be at their desk was the default way of operating. In 2022 and beyond, hyper flexibility will be an expectation. And if companies don’t allow it, people will look elsewhere for a job.  

Research* by IWG shows that of those who can work remotely, eight in ten (84%) Australian employees would prefer to work at least one day a week in an office, with almost one third (31%) saying they would prefer to work completely in an office/onsite environment, and 16% saying they would like to work remotely all the time. 

Workforce dispersion 

With employees working from anywhere, recruiting from a national or even global pool of candidates will become the norm for companies, giving them a chance to find the very best talent. This will also open greater possibilities for employees, who previously would have had to commute long distances or move to a major city to perform their role. 

Of course, there will still be demand for company HQs as places for people to come together and collaborate, but the hybrid model also allows for people to work remotely both from home and local flexible workspaces.  

Part-time commutes 

With greater flexibility around when and where people work, the hybrid model spells the end of rush hour – at least on some days of the week – because people don’t have to travel to and from a city-centre office every day. 

The pandemic has been a catalyst for the part-time commute, meaning that people are deciding to move further away from big cities in favour of rural or coastal lifestyles, and instead only travelling into the office on an ad hoc basis. 

Last year, the Australian Government Productivity Commission reported that in 2019, full-time workers in major Australian cities spent an average of 67 minutes per day commuting. For those taking public transport, this was an average of $57 per day in time and value. The same report found that commuting one day less per week over a year would save the average worker an equivalent of seven working days in travel time, and $394 in public transport costs. It’s clear the part-time commute trend will be generous for both Aussie wallets and diaries. 

Experience design 

Despite the rise of the metaverse and online working platforms, the vital role of the physical office as a place for creative collaboration will continue. But what will offices of the future look like?  

Many experts believe they will become social hubs, suggesting the integration of wellness spaces, expansive communal tables, and residential-style lounges. Spaces will be adapted to enhance creativity and relationship building, while the hybrid working model will allow workers to use these new facilities in ways that best fit their needs. Although hybrid workers will only go into an office or coworking space part-time, when they do, they will have a highly motivating experience.  

Green dividends 

In 2022 and beyond, greater flexibility in how often it’s necessary to commute to a city-centre office will be just one of several ways companies can reduce their overall carbon footprint. 

As many companies downsize city-centre offices and incorporate shared flexspace into their real estate portfolio, hybrid working will also reduce corporate energy consumption and play a major role in supporting several of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. 

*Research by YouGov