Initiatives to develop and maintain workplace culture are on the radar for many Geelong employers as they adapt to the flexible working environments created during the pandemic.

A survey of 85 regional organisations for the Geelong HR Index 2020 found that while the health, safety and wellbeing of workers coming out of COVID-19 was the key concern for employers, the impacts on organisational culture were also being addressed.

Forty-five per cent of respondents to the survey prepared by Harvest HR & People Solutions reported they were addressing culture, or the impacts to culture, as a key initiative.

Other key initiatives coming out of the pandemic focused on agile working (44 per cent), addressing new ways of work beyond flexible working and working from home (43 per cent), employee engagement (40 per cent) and organisation design (38 per cent).

GMHBA Mark Valena CEO

GMHBA CEO, Mark Valena

In an online presentation to release the index, GMHBA chief executive officer Mark Valena told Harvest HR director Maree Herath that developing a workplace culture and a coherent workplace environment while incorporating remote working was only part of the future challenge.

“I think the opportunity is a bit more thoughtful than that and to actually design the operating model the way you wish it to work,” Mr Valena said. “If we get that right as employers we get all the benefits of a flexible workforce and what that opens up for access to a different workforce in a different place, particularly for geography bound business.”

Mr Valena said that having swiftly moved to remote working, there was a need for business leaders to look at the impact of home working from OH&S, psychological and privacy perspectives.

But the experience of the pandemic had provided a lesson in not assuming that things would always stay as they were.

“(There were) things that we thought were impossible about ourselves, we never could work from home and get it done so quickly, well we could,” Mr Valena said.

He said it now remained to be seen if and how organisations adapted to what they had learnt from the agility, innovation, response and flexibility of the workplace shown during the pandemic. “We can do things differently when we have to,” he said.

Ms Herath said flexible working arrangements would be the standard moving forward. “Employees will be able to choose their preferred work arrangement and our employers are in full support,” she said.

As appeared in the Geelong Advertiser 7 December, 2020

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