Victoria halts return-to-office plan, stressing the need for flexible hybrid models

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The Victorian government has paused its plan to boost the cap on workers returning to offices to 50%, after the state’s two-month period of no locally acquired cases of COVID-19 ended.

Instead of boosting the cap on office workers who are not in the public service from 25% to 50% from January 11, Acting Premier Jacinta Allan announced on Wednesday that only 25% of office workers will be allowed to work on-site until further notice.

Employment Hero chief executive Ben Thompson says these changes to on-site working schedules stress the need for businesses to remain adaptable to uncertainty throughout 2021.

“The one certainty is that there is no certainty, and businesses shouldn’t wait for things to go back to normal before getting productive or efficient again,” Thompson tells SmartCompany.

“We still need to figure out how to work in the new normal.”

Thompson says managers implementing a successful hybrid-work model that can easily shift between 25% to 50% of staff on-site should prioritise leading through goals, objectives and key results.

To do this, Thompson recommends that managers have one-on-one meetings with their team members at least weekly.

“Basically just take a fresh approach to how you prioritise and meet with your team,” Thompson says.

There are well-established management methods that Thompson says prove how important it is for managers to set clear objectives and key results to help boost collaboration and productivity in their hybrid teams.

“Giving people that ability and opportunity to work on something that they can see they’re contributing to is very empowering and it can be delivered in the home or office,” he says.

For Thompson, the new year and all the uncertainty it brings is an opportunity to throw out old habits and “question the assumption that we all need to be in the same place at the same time”.

Announcing the new guidelines on Wednesday, Acting Premier Jacinta Alan said the decision to keep the number of on-site office workers at 25% was based on public health advice and there was no date as to when that advice might change.

“The public health advice has been to pause the changes for one further week,” Allan said.

“This is so we can continue to monitor very closely the situation in both New South Wales and also respond to the known Black Rock cluster here in Victoria.”

Workplaces welcoming 25% of their workers back into the office in must follow safety guidelines including a limit of one person per two square metres in common areas including bathrooms and meeting rooms.

For smaller teams of less than 40 people, there is a cap of 10 workers in the office at any given time.


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