New study shows employees in Australia are unaware of potential career risks of working from home

24 May 2023

Almost nine in ten Australian business leaders believe the career prospects of employees are limited if they work exclusively from home, but only 56% of employees acknowledge this. That’s according to a new study by global workplace creation experts, Unispace.

Returning for Good, a Unispace Global Workplace Insights report found that of any country in the world, Australia had the largest gap between employers and employees in terms of perceptions around the impact of remote working on career prospects, including limiting opportunities for promotions, bonuses and pay rises.

The global report combined the results of an in-depth survey of 9,500 employees and 6,650 business leaders from across 17 countries worldwide, including 500 Australian employees in companies of 50+ employees and 500 senior decision makers in companies of 50+ employees in Australia.

The divide between Australian employers and employees is also seen elsewhere in the findings, with almost two-thirds (64%) of staff feeling periods of burnout, but 31% of employers failing to recognise this. In fact, 72% of business leaders believe hybrid working models are boosting wellbeing.

Commenting on the difference in perception between Australian employers and remote employees, Emma Forster Mitrovski, Chief Executive Officer at Unispace Australia and New Zealand,said “The results from our study clearly show that a deep divide exists between employers and employees when it comes to remote working and its impact on career progression.

“The data suggests that the majority of business leaders feel that working remotely or on a hybrid basis has a detrimental impact on their employees’ career prospects, however nearly half of these people are not aware of this.”

The Unispace study also found that hybrid remains the most popular working model in Australia. More than half (51%) of workers indicated that they are based in the office four or more days per week and over three quarters (76%) stated this set up is mandated. Interestingly, 51% of those with mandated returns indicated that they were given set days to be in the office by their employer. This is above the global average of 44%.

Of those not currently in the office four days a week, more than half (55%) expect this shift to happen at some point, with 34% revealing they believe this will take place by 2025. Employers have higher expectations, with almost half (48%) expecting people to be in at least four days a week over the next two years.

Ms Forster Mitrovski commented that employers need to provide spaces tailored to the needs of their people to ensure the transition to the office is effective.

“Employees told us their main concerns around working in the office is the lack of privacy and focus space, and the impact that distractions have on their productivity. While in contrast leaders believe commuting and the rigidity of a routine are the key factors preventing discouraging their return,” she said.

“Despite the disconnect that we see in these findings, our research showed three quarters of employees feel loyal to their company. There is an opportunity to encourage greater connectivity, collaboration and wellbeing in the workplace – a careful balance needs to be struck between enticing people back to the office, reducing workforce burnout and limiting office distractions.

“Office design and space optimisation can play a big role in finding this balance. Easy wins like improving access to natural light and providing spaces for employees to focus and recharge can help ease workplace disconnect and improve employee wellbeing.”