As the debate around flexible working continues, Hays’ latest Salary and Recruiting Trends Guide reveals that more people are working fully in office than hybrid for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fewer than two in five (39%) now work in a hybrid way, whereas almost half (43%) work solely in an office setting. Fully remote working is also waning, with less than a fifth (18%) currently working in this fashion, compared to 21% the year prior.
The research sparked interest across the press – including articles by Bloomberg, The Telegraph, The Times, City AM, The Daily Mail and more – as the topic continues to spur tension throughout the world of work.
But, what’s important for employers to consider – especially as many are facing skills shortages and challenges when hiring – is what employees actually want in regard to ways of working, or else risk losing valuable talent.
Professionals reject rigid RTO policies
The return-to-office (RTO) debate rages on, as numerous industry-recognised organisations tighten the leash on their working policies. Earlier on this year, 30,000 Amazon employees signed a petition against the organisation imposing a rigid RTO policy. Further unrest ensued when a number of employees reported being tracked and penalised for not abiding by the strict new rules. The response from Amazon bosses has been more subdued, however, with their CEO commenting: “it’s not going to work out” for employees who do not wish to adhere to the new restrictions.
In the US, a former AstraZeneca senior director has filed a lawsuit against her ex-employer after her performance bonus was capped for not meeting retroactive office-attendance requirements, despite the fact she had worked remotely since starting the role several years prior. Meanwhile, other employers have been accused of using RTO as a means of masked layoffs.
The tide is changing to pro-RTO
Preferences from an increasing number of employers seem to be shifting away from more flexible ways of working and towards more rigid, one-size-fits-all models.
There have been significant shifts in working patterns over the past 12 months. Comparing data from our most recent Salary and Recruiting Trends Guide to our findings from the year prior, the amount of people working to a hybrid model has dropped four percentage points from 43% to 39%, while those working fully in office has risen from 36% to 43%. Casting our minds back slightly further to 2021, 45% of people were still working fully remotely: exactly 2.5 times higher than the figure today (18%).
Preferences from an increasing number of employers seem to be shifting away from more flexible ways of working and towards more rigid, one-size-fits-all models. What’s more, we can expect further reductions in hybrid working in the year ahead; of the employers who are still offering their staff hybrid working, almost a quarter (24%) anticipate they will require increased office attendance over the next 12 months. But that’s not in line with what employees want.
Inflexible employers will likely suffer
Almost half (43%) of professionals say they wouldn’t consider accepting a job that didn’t offer hybrid working.
Hybrid working undoubtably has its advantages for many employees, including better work-life balance, reduced spending, and more flexibility with where they live – in fact, almost one-third (31%) of professionals say hybrid or remote work has influenced where they live.
Employers should not take this statistic lightly, especially considering the current employee-led market conditions; the overwhelming majority (92%) of organisations are facing skills shortages and employers have had to focus on their attraction and retention strategies to stay ahead of the competition. All the while, jobseekers have had an abundance of available vacancies to choose from.
Introducing inflexible RTO polices could prove detrimental to employee attraction and retention, as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when comes to ways of working. In fact, there’s little variation between the number of employees who say they work more productively at home compared to in the office – 41% and 43%, respectively. If you’re considering enforcing more time in the office, then ensure there is a justification for this, as the majority of pushbacks tend to arise when employees aren’t aware of the “why.”
Many organisations are still offering hybrid working – a more attractive model for many workers – so less flexible employers can expect to face increased struggles when hiring in many instances. If you’re thinking about ordering your workers to come back into the office full-time, you should first ask yourself: will the benefits of more office time truly outweigh the added challenges regarding employee attraction and retention?
To hear our exclusive insights on issues affecting the world of work – including ways of working, skills shortages and AI – register for one of our Salary and Recruiting Trends Guide events. We have a range of in-person and webinar options available.