By Ingrid Uhlmann

Six am, a soft ringing wakes Georgina Prance, to make sure she’s on time for work. As an essential worker, she hasn’t been afforded the opportunity to work from home this year.

Having worked in health for five years, she is used to the high pressure and fast paced environment, which has only been heightened with the pandemic.

Working from home, or WFH for short, has been one of the most common phrases of this year, but everyone seems to have different restrictions, different protocols, and as more people begin to return to work, what does this mean for work life balance moving forward?

Four different people. Four different industries. Three of them working from home.

Jemima Debenham, a partnerships executive, is the epitome of what a young media professional looks like, having worked at investment agency UM Worldwide for just over a year.

Since COVID-19 arrived on our shores, Jemima has had to amend her working style. No longer does she spend her morning commute listening to her favourite podcast, she now has the long journey from the kitchen to the dining room table.

“Since the middle of March we have worked from home, but last week they started to bring people back to the office,” she said.

Before COVID -19 hit she was given the guidelines to follow to ensure her new workspace was both functional and safe.

“Every second week, we have a national meeting with the other offices around the country. We have also had psychologists available with six free sessions, which is ideal for easing the transition either at home or back into the office.”

Knowing that the job can be done from home allows media professionals like Ms Debenham to have a more flexible working schedule.

“At our last meeting, they were explaining to the team how they are exploring more flexible work, and would consider hiring from more regional towns in the future.”

Recent urban development graduate Helise Ho has faced her own form of challenges in recent months.

Graduating in the middle of a pandemic isn’t ideal but this hasn’t slowed her down.

During her studies, she worked part time in the urban development department of Brisbane City Council and has since transitioned into a new team full time.

“I started in a new team whilst working from home. They have made it as easy for me as they can, considering I couldn’t meet them face to face.”

Prior to COVID-19, she worked part time, three days a week in the office.

“I have been working from home since March. The plan was to phase us back in next week, at 25 per cent capacity for each floor.”

Moving forward, she believes Brisbane City Council will certainly be more open to flexible working arrangements on a case by case basis.

“They sent out a survey before all of this second wave stuff started, asking about everyone’s interest on, when we go back, do you want to go back full time, go back part of the time and work from home part of the time, and most people chose that option,” she said.

According to a recent study conducted by Roy Morgan, nearly one third of Australians have been working from home since COVID-19.

Some of the industries that haven’t been as adaptable to working from the comfort of their own home, include retail, transport and agriculture.

Even though health worker Georgina Prance hasn’t been able to work from home, her working environment has changed.

“We have a lot of physical measures to ensure safety. We have plastic screens up, signs all over the practice, chairs are spaced out, as well as hand sanitiser and masks available,” she said.

Having worked in health for five years, she is no stranger to its challenges.

“I don’t think our industry would ever be able to work from home, but I don’t mind as it means I am able to help people more face to face. That is the nature of working in health, but it’s so rewarding.”

Another industry hit hard by COVID 19 has been civil construction.

Construction on Brisbane’s Cross River Rail has been continuing full steam ahead, even during this time. Graduate communications and control design engineer Andrew Vallino, has been hard at work, both in the office and at home.

“I had only worked with UGL for two months prior to the COVID lockdown, it was full time in the office. There wasn’t a lot of flexibility, but they were understanding in extreme circumstances.”

Some companies, such as UGL have opted for a team rotation system during this time.

“The two teams were split up, and we worked on a week on, week off roster. They were very strict, you couldn’t just turn up on a day you were not assigned to.”

So how does he think it will affect his industry moving forward?

“It’s hard to say what will happen within 10-15 years, but definitely in the short term, there will be a lot more understanding regarding working from home,” he said.