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This month marks a pandemic milestone: the one-year anniversary of when most office employees were sent home in droves to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as a short-term circuit breaker turned into months without in-person interaction. Now, as life in Australia largely returns to normal, how can lawyers make the most of splitting the work week between the home and office? 

As Australia’s COVID-19 cases dwindle and the vaccine rollout begins, employers large and small are confronting a new workplace structure. One that attempts to balance both the desire of managers keen to return to pre-Covid normalcy, and employees – many who happily adjusted to working from home. 

After proving the remote “new normal” can work, some believe the office work environment should be banished to history. Yet others are itching to ditch the kitchen table set-up for a communal office kitchen and the ease of organic collaboration that goes missing on Zoom or Teams. 

For the many who reported a rise in productivity and a better sense of work-life balance while working remotely, the return to the office may feel discombobulating. In September 2020, The University of Sydney published research that found 75 per cent of surveyed workers want to work from home at least two days a week in the post-pandemic future. 

“The evidence reinforces the fact that as we move through and beyond the COVID-19 period, we can expect commuting activity to decline by an average of 25 to 30 percent as both employers and employees see value in a work from home plan,” said Professor David Hensher.

Many large organisations including Westpac, Telstra and Allens have publicly stated their commitment to ongoing flexibility, in line with staff feedback expressing a preference not to return to the office five days a week.

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