What do people need to feel confident about returning to work and getting back to business in Asia Pacific and Oceania?
To help businesses in Australia, Singapore, and Southeast Asia move forward, at the end of May Qualtrics asked more than 1,500 residents across the countries how confident they felt about returning to the workplace and visiting a range of public spaces. The research builds upon earlier findings from the US, which revealed more action is needed before people feel confident.
Going back to the workplace
When it comes to returning to the office more than half of workers in each country - up to 60% in Southeast Asia - said they felt uncomfortable going back to the workplace right now. This feeling is shared across all demographics surveyed, from Boomers to Gen Z.
As for returning to the office, there is also a common consensus on when that is likely to occur, with 40 percent of workers in Australia and 38 percent in Thailand and Malaysia not expecting to return until August at the earliest. In contrast, 42 percent of respondents from Singapore expect to be back in the workplace before the end of June.
Regardless of the date people return, businesses need to implement a range of measures and protocols prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of their teams. The Qualtrics research identified three pillars employees want to see action around.
1. Assurance from authorities
People across all countries stated government guidance on when to return to work significantly impacts their confidence to return. In fact, in Australia, Thailand, and Malaysia it was the top-ranking external condition respondents wanted to see.
2. Effective medical interventions
More than half of respondents in Thailand and Malaysia said a treatment (58%) or vaccine (61%) must be approved for them to feel confident about returning. These numbers remain high in Singapore (50% and 45%) and Australia (32% and 34%). With experts advising a vaccine remains over a year away it demonstrates the need for businesses to take meaningful action on the things they can control.
3. Safety policies
Before returning to work, respondents across the region listed the measures they wanted to see introduced before returning. Most respondents in Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia were in agreement on the desired actions, such as limiting the size of meetings, giving people the opportunity to work remotely if they feel unsafe, implementing social distancing, checking temperatures, and requiring people to wear masks.
Armed with insights into the actions people want to see from their employers and colleagues, businesses can prioritize and focus their resources to make quick and meaningful decisions on the best ways to bring people back to the office.
Cultivating consumer confidence
Alongside the safety concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses need to tackle the economic uncertainty it has created too. Marketplaces and go-to-market strategies have transformed overnight, and will continue to undergo immense change as restrictions ease.
Over the coming months, consumers are more likely to be cautious about spending, and they will likely choose to shop with businesses they trust and whose values they align with. It’s a reality that means businesses who lead with superior experiences are well-positioned to succeed in the “new normal”. It’s a theory backed up by previous downturns, where businesses that invested in marketing spend typically experienced higher sales, marketshare, or earnings during or after the downturn.
Qualtrics believe organizations that successfully navigate the downturn will do so by actively adopting Experience Management (XM).
Focusing on delivering better experiences will help businesses across Asia Pacific and Oceania address the current levels of nervousness among consumers.
While stores, gyms, restaurants - and even live sporting events in Australia - are starting to reopen, the research shows most people still feel uncomfortable about returning:
The activities consumers are least comfortable engaging with in all countries are attending live sporting events or concerts (between 73% to 71% in all countries). Going to the gym and riding public transport are also activities creating a high sense of unease among consumers across the region.
Most people also feel uncomfortable going to a restaurant - 60 percent in Thailand and Malaysia down to around half in Australia (49%) and Singapore (53%). It was a similar story for shopping in-person, albeit slightly reduced with 44% of Australians saying they felt uncomfortable compared to a third of respondents in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia.
People feel uncomfortable, and unless action is taken to make them feel more confident there’s no guarantee they’ll come back. The situation highlights the opportunity for businesses that focus on leading with experience right now.
So what actions do people want to see brands take?
- Health and safety is of top concern when it comes to shopping in grocery and retail stores, with consumers most wanting to see spaces regularly disinfected, shields in place between cashier and checkout, and enforced social distancing.
- To feel confident about returning to the gym or playing team sports respondents ranked government advice, regularly disinfecting spaces, and managing the number of people on-site as most important.
- Maintaining a safe distance between tables and enforcing social distancing is key to making people feel confident about eating at restaurants.
- Government guidance and approval, along with assigned seats are the main factors influencing how confident people feel when using public transport or flying.
- For people to feel confident about returning to live sporting events and concerts most want to see a proven vaccine or treatment, and government approval. As a result, it’s unsurprising to learn almost half say they will not feel comfortable attending a live event until at least January 2021.
- In lieu of a vaccine being available, people attending religious services most want to see social distancing enforced.
While every business, government department, employee, and consumer has experienced a significant level of change in recent months, the reality is that as we return to work and get back to business there is more change and areas to navigate ahead. Many organizations are now at the planning stage for bringing people back, but even after this it’s critical leaders observe how people engage with the changes and identify if they are successful.
Systems like the Qualtrics XM Platform are fundamental in enabling businesses to be agile in their response, and to take swift and meaningful action on the things that matter most.
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