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Deloitte: Aussie CFOs focussing on ESG, hybrid working in 2021

September 3, 2021

Despite multiple state lockdowns and unprecedented levels of uncertainty, Australian CFOs are highly confident in the strength and direction of their companies, a new report by Deloitte has found.

Bolstered by optimism, many companies will now turn their focus toward sustainability, talent retention, and remote working – areas perceived to be of highest risk to future growth.

Read also: What is proptech in commercial real estate, in 2021?

Australian companies want to promote employee wellbeing and talent retention through flexible work policies

According to the eleventh edition of Deloitte’s CFO Sentiment report, flexible working is front of mind for CFOs and their companies.

When asked, “What is your current position on new ways of working post COVID-19?”, the majority (38%) of respondents said they had “launched an official new or refreshed policy” on remote or flexible working. A further 15% are working toward implementing a new policy, while 16% are managing their policy on a case-by-case basis.

Only 16% of companies have made no changes to policies on flexible working, outside of government restrictions.

When asked, “What are the important drivers for your organisation with regards to new ways of working?” respondents said:

  • Being an employer of choice (69%)
  • New hybrid/flexible work models (66%)
  • Improving employee wellbeing (43%)

However, CFOs are worried about managing isolation, productivity, and burnout

CFOs want to prioritise flexibility and employee freedom, but not at the cost of company culture and overall wellbeing. “Erosion of culture” was the highest risk of concern to respondents (69%), followed closely by “Decline in mental health” (60%) and “Effectively managing hybrid work” (44%).

According to Deloitte, companies will be searching for ways to maintain employee engagement and wellbeing within a rapidly-changing environment.

ESG is on the radar

For Australian CFOs, ESG and climate change present long-term risks and opportunities to their companies. 72% of respondents said that the two factors were a critical consideration across different parts of their business – primarily investor engagement (60%) and the achievement of strategic business objectives (43%).

Luckily, over the long term, 90% of CFOs see ESG as a source of long-term value creation. This is where landlords can get involved.

The opportunity for commercial landlords

The enshrining of flexible working arrangements does not spell a massive decline in the Australian office market. Hybrid-working individuals will use the workplace. And, as recent research from Leesman shows, they are most likely to return, for more days per week, to the best-amenitized workplaces. They want a zone for community, and productivity; they want a place where they can interact with peers and colleagues, and access services and amenities they cannot get at home.

Proptech thought leader Antony Slumbers suggests, similarly, that smart buildings can attract companies who want to ensure the wellbeing and productivity of their employees – two of the main risks identified by leading CFOs.

“No business actually wants an office,” Slumbers writes. “What they want is the best outcome for the office. What they want is a productive workforce. They want a creative workforce. They want a happy and healthy workforce.

“...So what if you made improving the productivity of people the core value proposition within the office? What if we stopped thinking about space, and started thinking about improving the productivity of people?”

Smart building technology also helps commercial landlords prove their commitment to and achievement of sustainability goals. Equiem’s Smart solution tracks CO2 and carbon usage in real-time, and enables property managers to feed that data instantly through to tenants via quick-glance dashboards.

CFOs are concerned about ESG – commercial landlords now have an unprecedented opportunity to help them achieve their objectives.

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