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What will Australian workplaces look like post-COVID?

The world will be a different place as it emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, with Australians’ work, life and travel permanently changed by the pandemic, according to a new report by KPMG,Our New Reality: Predictions after COVID-19.

Remote working and digital commerce will rise across all industries, as the 9-5 workday is challenged and corporate real estate needs are impacted. Work will be measured by outcome rather than input, with a more flexible approach as leaders understand and work with the personal circumstances of their employees. Current organisational hierarchies will no longer fit this new reality, with a shift to flatter and more fluid, task-based work processes instead.

Emerging technology will be another driver of this change, with the 5G rollout boosting speed and reliability across Australia, making remote work much easier and more viable. The mass adoption of video conferencing and collaboration apps will also grow the need for virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, expanding their current niche use cases.

“We expect to see a previously unimaginable boost to the simultaneous transformation of industries and society. The onset of COVID-19 has exposed existing weak links across industries, government and in our economy. The urgency and importance of addressing these weak links has radically shifted and many decisions and discussions have been brought forward,” says James Mabbott, Partner-in-Charge, KPMG Futures.

“At the same time it raises many questions. With more people working from home, demand for large infrastructure projects won’t uniformly return to pre-COVID levels. How will cities adapt to this new world? Will the shifts towards remote working be a catalyst to reduce emissions – balanced with increased energy demand in residential sittings?” he asks.

Four-stage recovery path

The report predicts a four stage path through recovery

  1. Reaction: professional and personal lives are disrupted as the primary focus is on limiting damage to lives and livelihoods.
  2. Resilience: controls loosen as virus spread is contained and/or a vaccination or cure is available.
  3. Recovery: hiring, investment and consumer sentiment cautiously improve.
  4. New reality: enduring shifts remain as new behaviours born out of the crisis become the “new normal”.

Eight key themes predicted

  1. Ways of working will change permanently: this will be the “robot century” and the rise of the gig worker, as economic conditions spur greater focus on productivity, workforce automation and remote working, with a much more flexible approach.
  2. Australia’s workforce will automate and relocate: people will increasingly work remotely, as corporate real estate is repurposed or reduced. This will see people choosing choose larger residential properties with space for work and home offices, rather than smaller inner-city dwellings.
  3. Digital commerce will expand in more sectors: the crisis has accelerated the growth of remote delivery, from education to telehealth and fitness, with red tape that previously stifled progress and innovation now cut.
  4. Supply chains will get much smarter: sustained home delivery demand will require significant investment in logistics and delivery infrastructure, with supply chains becoming local, agile and smart.
  5. Building business continuity and resilience becomes a core competency: cash/liquidity has become critical for survival, as organisations struggle to balance what they can control with things they can’t.
  6. Climate change will attract more capital investment: as we realise opportunities from new regulation and new technology.
  7. Impacts of debt burden drive new regulation: with current financial security heavily tied to a fast-shrinking concept of permanent, lifelong employment, there is unprecedented government spending at federal and state levels, from stimulus packages to healthcare responses, welfare support, with Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the spotlight.
  8. Revisiting globalisation as citizens and governments go local: governments will prioritise national needs over the global outlook as new barriers slow the free movement of goods, labour and capital, with travel permanently reduced and increasingly local.

This article was first published on hradvance.com.au by Catherine Ngo.

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