More than half of Australian workers (55%) expect their industry will change for the better after COVID-19 due to the changes being implemented in response to the pandemic, according to recent research released by Qualtrics.

For the retail industry specifically, half (51%) of workers expect to see an additional focus on e-commerce and home delivery after the pandemic, with the majority (59%) expecting an increased focus on website functionality and usability.

Qualtrics’ Work Different study provides a comprehensive scorecard into how people rate their employer’s response over the last six months, what work routines employees want once the pandemic eases, and what shifts in workplace policies they expect of their employers.

Majority of respondents in the study (58%) rated the way their employer responded to the pandemic as “above average”. With more than four million Australians currently working from home, a third (34%) of respondents said their employee experience has improved during the pandemic, while half said it has remained the same.

The most effective actions employers have taken to make their teams feel more valued throughout this period have been more workplace flexibility (37%), gratitude from direct managers (21%), executives (18%), and customers (17%).

“As a result of their employers’ quick thinking and actions, the majority of workers across Australia currently feel a lot more valued (47%) at their company, and a lot more proud (54%) to work for them,” Qualtrics Asia Pacific and Japan head of employee experience, Steve Bennetts said.

“This is in part down to the human centred approach many adopted when the pandemic hit using solutions like the free Qualtrics Remote + On-site work pulse, which has supported 55,000 projects globally.

“While many have made steps in the right direction, businesses cannot afford to take their foot off the gas. Employees want to be listened to, and there is more change on the road ahead as people return and industries adapt. To ensure they continue to successfully move forward businesses need to formalise the human-centred approach adopted with employees.”

The Qualtrics study also gives insight into what measures employees want to see, and what actions they expect their employer to take.

The top actions workers want to see are more flexible work schedules (51%), higher focus on personal hygiene (47%) and office hygiene (42%), greater focus on employee mental health (42%), and being able to choose their work location (27%).

These employee preferences closely align with the top actions they expect their employer will prioritise – higher focus on personal hygiene (58%) and office hygiene (49%), more flexible work schedules (48%), greater focus on employee mental health (32%), and improved digital communications (25%).

“While there is so much talk of when things will go back to normal or how we’ll come to terms with the “new normal,” those conversations are fundamentally missing the point, and missing an important opportunity to come back better, stronger, and more inclusive than ever. We’ve witnessed how changing the way you listen to and engage employees can have a positive effect, which is why those who make lasting changes now will have a key advantage in the future – from attracting and retaining talent through to improved loyalty and productivity,” Bennetts added.