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Covid-19 has revealed ineffective work policies, says academic

Pandemic has ‘challenged familiar concepts about productivity and staff supervision’

Workplace design flaws and poor staff management have been highlighted by the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, a University of Wollongong business academic has said.

Sharna Wiblen, a lecturer in management at the university’s Sydney business school, says the switch to working from home has challenged familiar concepts about workplace productivity and the need for staff supervision. It has also revealed ineffective workplace polices in areas such as talent management and long-term business strategies.

She says many business leaders have seized the opportunity to transition to digital workplaces and give their staff the opportunity to take greater control over how they work.

“Face-to-face physicality has been replaced with infrastructure—both software and hardware—and agency over the where and when of work,” she writes in a university editorial.

Wiblen says social media is “awash with Covid-19 stories” that are questioning the need to work in a physical office “under the watchful eye of managers”. She also warns that business leaders should avoid talking about “the new normal” or reverting to normal when developing workplace strategies.

“Discussions about normality infer the effectiveness of previous ways of working. Discussions about returning to normal also foster cognitive anchoring where perceptions of what is possible and probable are entrenched in the past,” she writes.

Wiblen says that although there are positive stories about businesses adapting to the pandemic restrictions, these are matched by examples that highlight an absence of resilience and creativity.