As our cities come back to life and employees transition back into offices there is a sense that action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could be led through one of the most difficult levers: behaviour change.
Following our forced isolation and move to remote working for many, business was quick to respond in getting its people up and running outside of the office - and the results have been surprising.
In February the BCSD Australia Mobility Workgroup, in partnership with the University of Sydney's Institute of Transport and Logistic Studies, began work to take the mobility pulse of business. We predicted that greater work flexibility (including remote work) would offer significant well-being and economic saving opportunities with flow-on sustainability benefits. We did not foresee that in just a number of weeks we would be living through a global behaviour change experiment to test this theory.
Pre-COVID conversations with senior managers about an increase in remote work often focused on recognition of policies but limited uptake. The perceived issues positioned the policy as an option for a small percentage of staff who needed to convince their manager why they should be allowed to work remotely. Management saw issues with collaboration, decreased productivity and a lack of direct line of sight. However, our conversations post-lockdown have elicited a very different response with productivity and collaboration remaining high during remote work conditions and recognised improvements in employee well-being. The results reinforce what many are saying: greater proportions of employees working remotely is here to stay.
The results of BCSD Australia’s mobility research has highlighted staff well-being in the near and long term as a key determinant in the workplace of the future. Members' experiences with a flexible work policy have identified underutilised opportunities for employee well-being and business operations. Top line results include:
Productivity can be maintained, and in some cases improved.
Teams don’t need to be physically together to connect and collaborate.
Empowering staff to manage their own workloads improves mental well-being.
Increased flexibility and reduction in commute times significantly improved staff happiness and engagement.
Deeper personal connections developed through sharing home/family experiences improved team productivity.
There are economic savings and resource efficiencies in a larger remote workforce.
Remote and decentralised work hubs can support inclusion, diversity and access to a wider pool of employees.
Technology is capable of supporting remote work for an entire organisation.
Additionally and importantly remote work has delivered significant sustainable mobility benefits: improved air quality, reduced traffic congestion, and increased active transport uptake.
Further survey results around sustainable mobility opportunities for employees, fleets and facilities will be shared soon.
To support a safe return work Transport for NSW has developed travel information for business to help you plan and to share with employees. If you have not undertaken a travel-to-work survey, now could an ideal time to understand how staff travel and where the opportunities are to support their sustainable transport choices.