WeWork helps change how we all work now

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

THE PANDEMIC has changed our view of the workspace and office, say Balder Tol, the APAC general manager of WeWork

WeWork is a global office-space leasing company that offers flexible workspaces worldwide. The company—founded in 2010—enters into long-term lease agreements, renovates and furnishes its properties, and provides flexible lease options to tenants on a short-term basis.

Mr Tol said the pandemic had “reset the way we work” and that analysts say the demand for flexible office space has increased five-fold since the pandemic. This has created a fundamental shift in the purpose of the office and operators were now getting more sophisticated, challenging the real estate industry.

“One thing absolutely certain is that flexibility has been the key driver for organisations to consider flex in general,” Mr Tol told Talking Business.

This sees We Work offering businesses more flexibility than they would find in traditional real estate, he said. 

“From an employee engagement perspective, companies that let employees work where and when they need will have an advantage going forward in the war for talent,” Mr Told said

“The ability to support how and when they work will become a competitive advantage for companies as they recruit talent.”

Long term real estate commitments ‘out’

Mr Tol also said the idea of long term inflexible real estate commitments was losing its appeal for many business leaders.

“If anything, the pandemic reinforced that real estate flexibility is a strategic business tool in supporting organisations’ scalability,” he said.

Mr Tol said in times of economic uncertainty, as we are going through now, there is an increasing focus from business on flexibility in their real estate portfolios.

He said this now sees companies sharing the same space, challenging the traditional real estate models.

So it is that companies in a WeWork office have an area where they have a private space, where they can do their deep focus, but from the moment they step out of their private office, they are in an area that is designed for them to collaborate with others.

“So you have the best of both worlds, where you have an amenity rich space, yet still the privacy of your own office,” he said.

Feels like a hotel

Checking into a WeWork office can feel like a hotel. Mr Tol said it operated like a hospitality business.

“We have the luxury that our guests stay with us for a minimum of a month but more often for a year or more,” he said.

“That allows us to get to know our members and tailor our programming and events and the underling culture to the members in each location.”

Mr Tol said WeWork had dedicated community teams in each location. They are client facing and apply the hospitality principles. They are also there to make sure the technology runs smoothly.

He said the flex industry had “enormous opportunities for growth” and WeWork had created a number of innovations during the pandemic that are leveraging technology.

During the pandemic, it created All Access, which is a low cost monthly membership that is not tied to a private office but which allows users to access WeWork at 700 locations around the world with one single key-card.

WeWork has also introduced collaboration hubs for members and software to allow members to plan hybrid offices.

“So it is the technology together with increased demand that creates a positive outlook for where the flex industry is going at large,” Mr Tol said.

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


Workplace rehab management is an asset businesses should buy in to

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

ACCORDING to Safe Work Australia, more than half a million Australians sustain a work-related injury or illness each year at an estimated cost of $61.8 billion.

This impacts the health system, the economy and society in a multitude of ways including loss of productivity, income and quality of life.

Workplace rehabilitation is the process of providing guidance and support to an injured worker to enable safe and timely return to work after an injury or illness. It is about finding the best ways for a worker to remain at work and engaged with the workplace while keeping their valuable skills.

Rehab Management is a national workplace rehabilitation provider that supports people with injuries or illness – usually those that have happened in the workplace – helping people return back to work and their daily activities. It is a process that employs occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, rehab counsellors, social workers and employment consultants. 

Good rehabilitation management pays off

Renee Thornton, the general manager of Rehab Management, said research showed good rehabilitation programs involve focusing on the person, their injury, the workplace they are returning to and the diagnosis. It is also important to set goals that are meaningful and realistic, she said.

“One of the key things, though, is having everyone that’s impacted or is working with that person to return back to work is on the same page,” Ms Thornton told Talking Business.

“So having the employer, the insurer, the treating parties, the treating doctors and the allied health professionals and the worker all agreeing on what the goal is and then having a very open and collaborative document to plan to get them back to that.”

She said research showed a significant return on investment for businesses using rehabilitation providers. For every dollar spent on rehab, $75 was saved in terms of claims costs. Between six and 24 months’ time lost, insurers can save significantly on income protection claims using a rehabilitation provider.

Ms Thornton said the research also showed that early engagement of a workplace rehabilitation provider to support the worker, the employer and the treating professional, provided a big cost benefit.

Support must be tailored to succeed

Rehab Management provides a tailored approach to each person and business.

“It’s not a cookie cutter approach,” she said. “It’s understanding what is important to that person from a community, from a social aspect, economically, and tailoring the approach and the program to suit that person’s needs, as well as all the stakeholders that are working with them to help them get back into work,” Ms Thornton said.

“It’s not necessarily about being faster all the time. It’s being sustainable and durable in returning that person back to work. That’s why it’s important to have that diagnosis understood from the outset.”

All parties would need to be involved in the process, she said. That would, importantly, involve the treating doctors and the allied health professionals.

It is also important to consider the workplace and what the requirements there may be for that person to return to work.

Ms Thornton said it was also crucial to measure and monitor the injured or ill worker as “things can change”. It is important to have realistic goals that can be achieved and a written plan that everyone is across and has agreed to the goals.

“Just having that plan in place, we can see the evidence shows us that it’s a much more effective outcome or a much more positive outcome for that person,” Ms Thornton said.

“It’s really about everybody being on the same page at the end of the day.”  


Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


Tracking ESG far more important than carbon footprints

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business

ESG (environmental, social and governance) is now important for businesses.

A few years ago, the screws from regulators and big investors really came down hard on US corporates to reveal their ESG factors right throughout their supply chains.

That is a lot of paper work.

Enter Fiscal Note, a software solution that does the work.  Fiscal Note has just gone public on the New York Stock Exchange. It is a $US1.1 billion company which is now the leading technology provider of global policy and market intelligence for next-generation carbon and ESG management software solutions.

Fiscal Note has 800 employees and 3000 enterprise/government clients, predominantly in the US. It is the leading provider of ESG information for corporates from a software perspective. Fiscal Note is now coming to Australia.


The impact of ESG on the big corporates has had an impact right throughout the market.

“Those big companies – the Apples, the Microsofts – started putting huge pressure on their suppliers to provide that information,” Fiscal Note managing director for ESG at Equilibrium and Fiscal Note, Frank Meehan told Talking Business

“That ripple effect is what you’ve seen in the last two years, in terms of a much greater focus on corporate carbon emissions – and it’s very important for investors.”

Mr Meehan said there was now a lot of concern from regulators right around the world, and that included the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), that some companies were not being truthful.

He said the carbon reporting had been done by consultants “in a haphazard way on Excel spreadsheets”. There were no audit trails and it took a long time to gather the information.

Software solutions like Fiscal Note became big businesses as regulators were now cracking down on companies to report their ESG data.


Mr Meehan said the importance of getting ESG right, into the future, could not be understated.

“It’s really going to become as essential as the financial system,” he said. “It’s going to become very software driven, the same as finance is to make sure those numbers are accurate.

“We are working with large corporates with multi-national operations.”

Mr Meehan said the numbers on key issues were far-reaching.

“The thing about carbon is you need to know everything,” he said. “You’ve got to know transport, you’ve got to know electricity, waste, water, everything. How the building is constructed, the suppliers and supply chain. That is such a huge task beyond the realm of Excel,” he said.

Mr Meehan said there were some companies that just specialised in carbon.

FiscalNote is the next generation of ESG specialists, focusing not only on carbon bit also on water, biodiversity, social and governance.

He said after COVID-19, companies were now much more aware of potential supply chain issues. Suppliers may say they don’t have a problem with emissions, their water or labour force. But Fiscal Note has a sophisticated artificial intelligence engine which can pick out all the issues they are trying to conceal.

“You can’t hide away from this stuff anymore,” Mr Meehan said.

“And that kind of verification down the supply chain, and not just relying on what the suppliers are saying, they are independently verifying that through AI and machine learning on external published reports is kicking in as well.

“As part of this, Fiscal Note provides its customers with a benchmarking tool allowing them to benchmark their operations, their suppliers their competitors, and to identify risks.”


Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at



Red Leaf CEO Ian Schubach urges business leaders to ‘reinvigorate’

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business

RED LEAF CEO Ian Schubach believes the COVID-19 pandemic has given businesses the opportunity to transform themselves. After a period of lockdowns, businesses have changed.

“For me, the thing that sticks out is the fact that senior management are presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-invigorate their organisations from a cultural perspective,” Mr Schubach told Talking Business

“The opportunity is for executives in organisations to recognise that now is the time to recognise the benefits of a two and half year hiatus where people have not been able to gather and meet in any meaningful way, that that together with advances in technology have allowed for us to be able to connect hybrid workforces in ways that have never been done before.

Mr Schubach said businesses needed to create a one team culture in the hybrid workplace with some working in the office, and others working from home or other locations.

He said to develop a unified culture in businesses post-pandemic requires executives to define what the organisation stands for, what its mission is and its priorities. The next step is for them to communicate this to the rest of the organisation.

This means redefining the organisation’s purpose and that, he says, is the opportunity.


“We’ve had two and a half years of forced change and a massive experiment and many organisations might have changed and that presents senior executives with the opportunity to reshape the culture that they would like to see, and reshape the purpose and the mission that they would like to see in the organisation,” Mr Schubach said.

“They need to do that as senior executives and then share that with the rest of the organisation.”

He said this required looking at the priorities for the business over the next six to 12 months, what he called the “must-win battles”. These needed to be aligned and then communicated to every person in the organisation.

This required identifying the heroes in every business.

This, he said, was very much part of being the leader of the business. It’s the kind of stuff that business leaders do. They are there to transform the business.

“Most importantly, during tough times, and for some, it is a tough time, it is to lead and to inspire and to align and to encourage and to cajole,” Mr Schubach said.


Mr Schubach said the pandemic had given businesses the opportunity to transform themselves into post-COVID workplaces.

“This is what makes it unique,” he said.

“I’ve been in this role and in this industry for the last 25 years, and I can’t recall a time when organisations have been forced to operate in a completely different way like they have in the last two and half years,” Mr Schubach said.

“There is an opportunity here which I believe shouldn’t be wasted.”

Mr Schubach said business leaders should not be rolling out the same agenda that they had deployed pre-pandemic,

“That’s not the way to demonstrate that the world has changed,” he said. “Things are different now and people need to be engaged to be able to jump on board.”


Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


Pension changes to attract over-65s into work 'will require education campaign against ageism' says EveryAGE

THE PLAN to change pension eligibility rules to attract over-65s back into the workforce would require a concerted campaign to mitigate the ageism among Australian employers, claims the EveryAGE Counts campaign.

EveryAGE Counts campaign director Marlene Krasovitsky said Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers has confirmed he is open to the idea of easing the rules around pension eligibility, to make it easier for older Australians to work more without losing benefits. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has also backed the idea, she said.

Dr Krasovitsky said EveryAGE Counts welcomed initiatives to break down structural barriers to older people working, "but we also need to breakdown attitudinal barriers given the prevalence of ageism among Australian employers". 

"Recent research by the Australian HR Institute revealed 47 percent of Australian businesses say they are reluctant to recruit workers 'over a certain age,'" Dr Krasovitsky said.

"For more than two-thirds of the group admitting to ageism, that certain age was over 50. So the chances of an over-65 getting a fair go in a job interview is extremely slight.

"If we want to harness the unquestionable value of over-65s in the workforce we need to look ageism squarely in the face, admit that it's a problem, and work hard to break it down.

"The fact is ageism, like all prejudice, flourishes in the shadows. People often aren't sure when they've encountered it and are worried about calling it out.

"That's why we've been campaigning hard for a national education program that would help employers and others to know ageism and to name it when they see it."

Dr Krasovitsky pointed out that the stereotypes about older people were unfounded.

"It's vital to recognise that much of the bias against older people is unconscious. Typically employers aren't being actively hostile to older people, they are just assuming a lot of things that are probably wrong," Dr Krasovitsky said.

"For example, we know from our research that employers prefer young people because they believe they are more capable of picking up new skills. However, older employees are generally keen to upskill or reskill, especially when offered meaningful training opportunities.

"Older people are also accused of being tech illiterate when the latest research shows 70 percent use the internet multiple times a day.

"All we need to break down ageism is to ensure older candidates are placed on a level playing field, without having to battle entrenched bias against them because of the decade in which they were born.

"If we can break down these ageist barriers the structural changes to pensions being floated right now could have a great chance of working, getting more older people into work and boosting the economy."


Funding welcomed for critical small business mental health program

THE Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson has welcomed the Australian Government’s commitment to renew funding for a critical mental health program tailored to small business owners.

Acting Minister for Small and Family Business, Anne Ruston announced today that an additional $4.6 million in funding would ensure Beyond Blue’s New Access for Small Business Owners program could expand and continue to assist small business owners who needed mental health support.

A further $2.1 million has also been announced to extend the Small Business Debt Helpline for 2022. 

“I commend the Australian Government for supporting small business with this vital funding announcement,” Mr Billson said.

“Small business owners have endured so much over the past two years, pummelled by the pandemic and natural disasters. The road to recovery has been lengthy and challenging and that has understandably taken a toll on the bottom line and wellbeing.

“Critically, Beyond Blue’s successful New Access for Small Business Owners program will continue to offer free one-on-one telehealth sessions with specially trained mental health coaches providing evidence-based advice on strategies for managing stress.

“The additional funding will allow Beyond Blue to provide an extra six coaches to meet the needs of our small business community," Mr Billson said.

“The success of the New Access for Small Business Owners program is built on it being delivered by coaches who have experience in small business. Being able to speak to someone who understands the mental load of running a small business makes a big difference.

“Small business owners, who look after their mental health, can also help their business. With this renewed funding in place, help is available to small business owners who need it.

“Both the mental health and financial counselling support is welcome, particularly for small business owners who have loans secured against the family home. We know the stakes are incredibly high and that losing the business often means also losing the home.”

More information about the NewAccess for Small Business Owners program is available by calling 1300 945 301 or on the Beyond Blue website.

Small business owners can contact the Small Business Debt Helpline by calling 1800 413 828 or visit



What's the go on rapid antigen testing in the workplace?

DETECTING COVID-19 through the use of rapid antigen testing may be an option for some businesses but it may become a requirement for others to meet their health and safety obligations, according to employer advice group Employsure.

Vaccination related calls to Employsure’s dedicated employer Advice Line surged a further 187 percent in October - up almost 8000 percent since the start of the year.

But with rapid antigen testing now available for at-home use, as of November 1, or through workplaces under the supervision of a health practitioner, employers have been given another option to help maximise safety, according to employsure health and safety manager Larry Drewsen. He said guidelines and procedures were being established now by many companies and these should be checked that they fall within the law. 

Implementing rapid antigen testing

Mr Drewsen said businesses only needed to implement rapid antigen testing if a government direction or industry standard required them to do so. Otherwise, the tests may be an alternative control measure to manage COVID-19 transmission risks for business owners, subject to the results of any risk assessment they carry out.

“Employers who want to implement rapid antigen testing in their business must know that without a legal requirement, they can only require an employee to take a rapid antigen test if the direction is considered lawful and reasonable," Mr Drewsen said. "The testing must be connected to the employee’s employment, the nature of their workplace, and is considered necessary for an employer to know the employee’s fitness to work.

Employers should first undertake a risk assessment in consultation with workers and identify rapid antigen testing as a reasonable measure to control the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This can include implementing a rapid antigen policy. Employers can then direct staff to take a test in line with their policy and risk management plan.

“While rapid antigen testing may be an effective control measure to address infection transmission risks, alternative measures, such as providing PPE, practicing hand hygiene, workplace cleaning and a detailed infection control policy may still be required to adequately address health risks and meet health and safety obligations.”

Employee refusal

If a government or public health direction requires an employer to implement rapid antigen testing in their workplace, the employer can direct their employee to comply with the law, according to Employsure.

"As an employee’s refusal to take a test will flow from either a refusal to comply with the law or the employer’s policy, the employer may be able to commence a disciplinary process with the employee," Mr Drewsen said.

Positive result

Employers who introduce rapid antigen testing must pay for the employee’s test kit, Employsure said. If an employee purchases a test kit at the direction of the employer, the employer must reimburse them the cost. If that employee returns a positive test result, they must be paid for time worked up until the results are received, he said.

“If an employee returns a positive result, employers must direct them to stay out of the workplace, immediately take a standard COVID-19 test and communicate their result as soon as they receive it, as well as follow any government advice or regulations with respect to testing and self-isolating,” Mr Drewsen said.

“If the subsequent standard test is positive, then permanent employees are eligible to take personal leave for the full period of absence. If negative, the employee is not entitled to payment in the ordinary course (but will be permitted to work). Annual leave can also be taken by mutual agreement.”


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