Leadership trust identified as key to future of remote working success

A new report reveals leadership teams require higher trust in their teams and a relationship-focused approach to support their employees, as WA embraces the future of working partly from home.

Committee for Perth’s latest FACTBase Bulletin 76 reviews the role of leadership in meeting the challenges associated with maintaining employee wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic in WA, and more broadly across Australia. It highlights that while many organisations had Work from Home (WFH) policies in place pre-pandemic, they were not optimised for rapid and widespread adoption.

The analysis reveals employees are faced with six key challenges when working from home, which are related to tasks; family; technology; psychosocial and physical work environment; social and organisational; and psychosocial factors.

To address the challenges, people in leadership roles need to apply new skills and approaches to provide greater relationship support. In particular, an inclusive style that demonstrates openness, flexibility and availability and helps employees satisfy their need for belongingness and uniqueness; is required.

Committee for Perth CEO Marion Fulker AM, said the research makes note of some important findings that organisations must consider with employees who are working from home for all or part of the working week.

“The research tells us that there are various success factors that impact working from home. Organisations must recognise that new ways of working are underpinned by new ways of leading. This will require existing policies, training and tools of leadership to be reviewed and updated to suit the changing work environment to maintain employee wellbeing and performance,” Mrs Fulker said.

FACTBase 76 concluded that there’s a strong indication that employees and employers both see merit in retaining flexible working arrangements, presenting a business case for the adoption of potential hybrid working models as permanent solutions.

Lead Researcher Professor Tim Bentley said that this opens up a new model for working in Western Australia that can provide positive outcomes for employee performance and wellbeing however, it’s important that a framework be established to support employees to ensure the six challenges identified within the report are addressed.

Additional findings from the Bulletin include:

  • Organisations must develop an outcomes and trust-based culture where WFH employees are empowered and given high levels of autonomy, thereby creating positive psychosocial safety.
  • A one-size-fits-all approach to flexible working does not work as different demographic cohorts, such as women, those with carer responsibilities or those with a disability, experience wellbeing in different ways when WFH.
  • Top leaders should prioritise the psychological safety of employees and communicate their commitment and support for the wellbeing of all workers.
  • The key to ensure the effective planning and implementation of multi-level change towards new ways of working will include the development of structures; policy; practice; technology (inputs/outputs); and culture.

The Bulletin marks the first FACTBase Bulletin developed by Committee for Perth in conjunction with the Edith Cowan University (ECU), led by the University’s Centre for Work and Wellbeing. ECU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Steve Chapman CBE welcomed the inaugural collaboration, noting its importance to the future of work in Western Australia and beyond.

“ECU welcomes the development of this timely resource through its first research engagement with the Committee for Perth. The FACTBase provides insights from ECU’s Centre for Work and Wellbeing on the role of leadership in maintaining employee wellbeing and performance during the COVID-19 restrictions,” Professor Chapman said.

FACTBase Bulletin 76, forms part of the Committee for Perth’s Future of Work project — a two-year initiative that aims to equip WA and its people for the changing world of work.