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Alarm bells raised over future back-to-office mandates

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

Commonwealth Bank has received employee backlash following its insistence for them to return to the office. This sparks the question: Are such mandates the most logical business decision?

The big four bank is the latest company to enforce back-to-office mandates, with the organisation ordering its employees to spend half of their workdays onsite.

This decision has received backlash, with many of the 49,000 employees affected reportedly unhappy with the decision. Unions have now stepped in to voice their concerns, with the Finance Sector Union stating that this decision could cause an exodus of employees.


Finance Sector Union (FSU) president Wendy Streets told Today papers were filed yesterday (12 July) with the Fair Work Commission to get involved, and the threat of “staff walking away is a serious one”.

“Half a million people work in the finance industry,” Finance Sector Union president Wendy Streets told Today.

“I think we have to recognise it’s a very tight labour market out there and people can walk and know that they can secure another job relatively quickly in one of the big four competitors.”

Ms Streets claims the decision has not had proper thought put into it, as the negative effects could outweigh any positives. She also noted that productivity has actually improved with work-from-home arrangements.

“Commonwealth Bank needs to sit down at the table with us and work out how we actually do this together and how people have a say in what they’re asking them to do,” said Ms Streets.

“The productivity in the CBA bank is better than what it’s ever been. Their profit is higher than it’s ever been, we’ve had workers at home for three years now and nothing has gone backwards – everything has gone forwards.”

She continued: “This is part of the reason why our members are saying there is no need for us to be forced back into the office; we are working more efficiently than we ever have in the past.”

CommBank employees have had a few instances recently that have caused disgruntlement. Earlier this month, there were reports of staff being treated like “kindergarten kids” with office day roll calls entering the business.

One anonymous worker told news.com.au it was “ridiculous and annoying” that staff had “become kindergarten kids again, forced to tick attendance at school”.

Helping affected workers to try and get some of their flexibility back, the FSU has filed a dispute with the Fair Work Commission to block the return to office mandate.

FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano commented: “What the CBA has done is ignore the enterprise agreement and instead, dictate changes to work-from-home arrangements that currently suit many of its employees.”

“Our members at the CBA deserve to be consulted about changes to their working conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic proved that remote work is a sustainable model, and this is convenient for vast numbers of workers.”

However, CommBank has a different position and has backed up its decision by claiming it will improve business function.

“Connection, innovation and the ability to build and strengthen relationships is absolutely fundamental to how we continue to work,” said a CommBank spokesperson.

“Flexible working options remain available, as they always have, and we’ll continue to give consideration to our people who require more tailored arrangements to suit their individual circumstances and in line with our enterprise agreement obligations.”

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.