Do Employees Want to Return to the Office?
February 10, 2022
Jade Smith

With the Omicron variant emerging in November 2021, many employees’ return to the office was brought to a halt. With the drastic increase in case numbers, the government announced renewed measures, including an order to work from home.

However, non-frontline employees in England may now return to offices. The Scottish government is also encouraging employers to phase in the return to the workplace.

There’s no denying that there are benefits to being in an office, from easy collaboration with colleagues to socialisation. But do people want to return to the office?

What are Employees Saying?

A survey of our internal candidate database suggests that employees are not willing to return to the office full time. Indeed, 72% of our jobseekers stated that they’re seeking roles with hybrid working. Additionally, only 15% of candidates were willing to work full time in the office.

Moreover, a Pulse study shows that just under two thirds of workers would consider leaving their job in 2022 if employers can’t meet their needs. The HR Director even suggests that three quarters of employees would accept a reduction in salary for permanent home working.

Why Don’t People Want to Return?

In our previous blog on the phenomenon of FORTO (Fear of Returning to the Office), we saw that candidates are largely fearful of a negative impact on mental health and work-life balance. This is still a major concern. A McKinsey study shows that returning to the office has negatively impacted the mental health of at least a third of respondents.

Additionally, financial concerns are a key factor. The ONS found that working from home during the pandemic may be saving employees as much as £495 a month. With threats of the cost of living continuing to increase, it’s no surprise that people are not keen on the thought of paying the costs of commuting full time, as well as potential childcare.

It’s clear that the ability to work from home at least part time is important to the British workforce. With such a large proportion of employees willing to change jobs, as well as a candidate strong market, it’s crucial in 2022 to meet your employees’ needs to retain and attract staff.

How to Retain Your Staff

The key to retaining your staff is understanding what they want. Open a dialogue with your employees and get input from your staff. Do they want to work in the office? What benefits do they need in order for you to support their wellbeing?

It’s crucial in the recruiting landscape of 2022 that your organisation’s benefits offer reflects the needs of your staff. The Telegraph points out that employees have the right to request flexible working if they’ve worked for your organisation for over 26 weeks. Given the country’s experience of working from home over the past 2 years, it’s difficult to justify rejecting such a request.

You should also consider offering flexitime if this isn’t already available at your organisation. Commuting is still a large concern for those who are still worried about infection. If employees have the option to travel outside of peak times they may be more comfortable with working in the office. Alternatively, you may consider whether there are ways you can encourage alternative forms of transport, such as a cycling programme or offering parking discounts.

Putting in place these measures to support your staff in a hybrid working model will help to ensure that you don’t lose employees to competing organisations.

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