Much has been said and written about the global COVID-19 pandemic which had an enormous impact on employment and the Australian economy. SuperConcepts was proudly able to adopt a business-as-usual model throughout this pandemic as we rapidly transitioned to a flexible working model for all staff.
Now, we are committed to adopting this model longterm which has resulted in the relocation of our Sydney staff from our head office to a smaller shared space in the CBD which has been achieved with little disruption to clients and employees.
Prior to making the decision to close the Sydney office, employees were surveyed for their opinions. A total of 50 per cent of all participants said they were in support of closing the office, 20 per cent did not have a strong view either way while less than 10 per cent were not in favour of permanently working from home. Sydney employees were also asked what the benefits would be if they adopted a flexible work schedule and they responded with the following reasons:
Both the Sydney and Melbourne SuperConcepts offices have remained closed to the public since March while the Adelaide and Brisbane offices have also been forced to close their doors at varying times during the pandemic. But this has not made a dent in our ability to provide services to all of our professionals and trustees - in fact, 2020 has been a major year full of major accomplishments and achievements.
Management at SuperConcepts has always embraced the flexible work model and has worked closely with employees requiring this method of work delivery to make it a reality. And the bottom line is we are not alone, flexible work environments have been adopted by leading businesses around Australia for many years already.
Around half of the Australian workforce went to a work-from-home model from March 2020 because of COVID-19 and the ensuing restrictions. But what a lot of people might not realise is that one-third of the workforce was already regularly working from home before COVID. So while the global pandemic might have accelerated flexible working arrangements and the number of people working from home, it was a trend that was already spiking upwards.
“We've always had flexible working options available for our employees but COVID has certainly forced our hand,” SuperConcepts People & Culture Business Partner Wade Burgmann said.
“Working from home wasn't a completely foreign concept to us before the pandemic , it's just that we were able to do it at scale and I think a lot of the credit tis down to our IT teams being able to quickly mobilise to ensure our employees could seamlessly continue to deliver service to our clients.”
When the COVID threat reached its highest level in March, decisions need to be made. Around half of all SuperConcepts staff had their own company laptop and all staff had access to all of the business tools, apps and platforms remotely.
SuperConcepts already had enormous scope and capacity to scale through Citrix Receiver to onboard all Australian staff after years of servicing international, offshore staff and clients. And by using a VPN, workers that used desktop computers in the office were able to access them remotely and securely from their home devices.
All of the pieces of the puzzle were in place, but there was one major challenge on the table for the IT department, the SuperConcepts leadership team and every staff member, client and trustee - data security.
Chief Information Officer Grant Christensen said a full risk assessment process had to be undertaken with the SuperConcepts Leadership Team to ensure that all new potential risks were identified and mitigated.
“That was the heart of this, we took a risk-based approach to this,” he said.
“First and foremost we ensured we understood the security implications of sending the entire workforce home to carry out their duties there during COVID and where we identified any degree of security risk then we put mitigations in place.
“An example of this, one of the things that we identified is people using their personal computer to remotely access their work computer in the office. While our work computer has anti-virus software and all of the various protections, a risk that we identified would be ‘What if they had some Malware on their personal computer at home and it is going to sit there and screen scrape and watch everything that they do?’.
“You are working on a secure computer in the office but you are still running the risk that something is going to capturing all of the data on the home computer. So what we did was identify that risk, then we reached out to all of our staff and we basically got the IT team to work with them to ensure that every single person had antivirus installed on their personal computers at home.”
A recent McCrindle Research survey conducted in Australia revealed that over half of people felt that they were more productive when working from home. This figure rose to 52 per cent for Generation X and 61 per cent for Baby Boomers who found it easier to juggle work and life commitments from home.
That has certainly been the experience at SuperConcepts as well, Mr Burgmann said.
“We certainly haven't seen a drop off in terms of the output of our people. If anything, we've seen a lot of examples of performance improving during this time,” he said.
So what does the future hold for SuperConcepts? Flexible work arrangements are here to stay, but there are also some roles that are better suited to an office environment and some people who thrive better under that model as well.
“We're not completely removing the option to work in the office environment because some people value the interactions you have in that setting and it’s really important to them. Mr Burgmann said.
“If we look at the whole organisation it has shown that it makes sense to provide employees with flexible working options. It is something we will definitely continue to do, we will provide options that make sense for employees, our business, and our customers.”