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Employees at a number of Australian companies are now risking having their bonuses reduced if they fail to come into the office for work.

Various major companies across the world have struggled to encourage employees to return to the office following the COVID-19 pandemic, with many employees preferring to stick to remote work arrangements. These companies include tech giants X (formerly Twitter), Google, Amazon and Zoom, which have all shifted their workplace policies in a bid to push employees to embrace flexible working arrangements or completely return to the office.

Earlier this year, Corporate Wellness Trainer Daphne Grech Cumbo said that globally, seven in 10 companies have changed their policies in favour of a return to office, with employees becoming less reluctant to do so.

Australian companies Origin Energy and Suncorp Group have now started pushing for a shift back to physical workplaces by targeting employees’ bonuses, a report from the Australian Financial Review revealed on Wednesday.

Origin Energy, which has a policy that requires all office-based employees to spend at least 40 per cent of their working time at the office, has now started linking office attendance to annual performance reviews and bonuses.

A spokesperson for the electricity generation company said that the 40 per cent rule is a clear and “modest” expectation that employees must abide by.

“We believe a balance between work and home locations enables connection, collaboration, productivity, and health and wellbeing benefits,” they added.

On the other hand, financial services company Suncorp Group stated that it had not introduced such company-wide expectations about office attendance, yet it shared that employees must comply with the hybrid working arrangements they agreed to with their respective managers.

The arrangements are dependent on the employee’s role, and are included in a “scorecard” system that helps management determine the annual bonus that an employee receives, together with having an impact in their overall performance rating.

Commonwealth Bank has so far opted against directly relating bonus amounts to attendance. However, it has compiled a list of employees who have not abided by its return to office rules, asking their managers to communicate what is required of these workers and to find out why they are not fulfilling the 50 per cent work arrangement target.

A Commonwealth Bank spokesperson outlined that the bank’s managers are having conversations with a “very small number” of its employees who are yet to meet the target, stating that flexible working options are still available, and will continue to be available according to individual circumstances.

Similar to how there are a number of companies enforcing a return to the office, there are also others which are allowing employees to be retain a sense of flexibility.

Last month, Drew Houston, CEO of software giant Dropbox, said that he had grown fond of the hybrid model, and the company is still emphasising the need for a predominantly remote work culture, based on its 90/10 rule. The rule was adopted in 2021, with 90 per cent of an employee’s year being dedicated to remote work, while the remaining 10 per cent is allocated to some employee off-sites.

Flexible work arrangements have become very attractive to employees, and it remains to be seen whether measures impacting bonuses will ultimately have an effect on whether this trend continues in the future.


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