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How COVID-19 gives us the chance to break from the nine-to-five crawl

Infrastructure Association of Queensland chief executive Priscilla Radice said bosses had seen employees working effectively from home for several months.

She predicted changes to workplaces, public transport and the way jobs would be described over the next decade.

“Major diseases have shaped what our cities have looked like in the past,” Ms Radice said.

“The wide boulevards and the city grid, these both came from the plague.

“There is now a whole kind of space here about how our cities will respond; floor spaces, workplace patterns.”

Ms Radice said employers who normally worked in large offices would have noticed relative efficiencies of their employees from home.

“I imagine there will be changes that now a lot of workers have proved they can be very productive working from home offices,” she said.

“If they live at North Lakes I can’t imagine they are going to want to get into their car and do a 9am-to-5pm [workday] in the Brisbane CBD every day.

“I think there is going to be a real take-up of technology and shift in the workplace.”

Ms Radice said the present mindset was for employers to watch their employees to make sure they were working.

“These technologies have been around a long time, but you have had leadership and cultural behaviour around ‘presentee-ism’ in offices,” she said.

“That behaviour is ‘I don’t trust that you are doing your job unless I am physically seeing you’. That is going to disappear.”

Ms Radice said more and more people would question their old workplaces.

“Why am I being dragged into an inner-city office and for what purpose?” she said.

“Are you really getting benefit to the company? This whole concept of everyone having to connect and the water-cooler conversations, it is not how the next generation connects.

“That is our generation placing behaviours on people.”

The IAQ chief also predicted a greater proportion of women entering the workplace because they could work from home.

“They have really struggled to get work because they want to work from home,” she said.

“I think a whole range of opportunities will open up.

“People will have to bypass their old behaviours, their old cultures.”

It might also trigger a rethink on commercial office development, she said, meaning an office with a 10-floor footprint might only need five.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said it made sense to stagger the return to work.

Tony Moore, Brisbane Times