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The Great Return to the office risks the start of a Great Resignation


Employment agency, Reed, is warning employers to think twice before insisting workers return full-time to the workplace – or risk losing and missing out on top talent. There is now a real possibility of The Great Return to the office risking the start of a Great Resignation.

The company believes that trying to enforce a return to pre-Covid working norms could prove a major disadvantage to employers competing for staff against other companies prepared to offer more flexible options.

Ian Nicholas, Global Managing Director at Reed, explained: “The Covid pandemic forced many businesses to adopt a hybrid or, in many cases, a completely remote working model for the first time.

“The flexibility offered by some degree of home working was welcomed by many, as it removed the stress and cost of the daily commute. It also allowed people to work at the times of day when they were most productive, rather than being constrained by traditional office hours.

“The restrictions of Covid are, of course, a thing of the past, and many companies are considering, or have already decided, to revert to those traditional, office-based working models.

The risk of starting a Great Resignation

“However, we believe that by doing so, they could be making themselves less attractive to both existing employees and potential new recruits, who have become accustomed to at least some degree of home working – and are unwilling to give that up.”

Ian Nicholas pointed to Reed’s recent research study of 2,000 employed adults across the UK, which was undertaken in conjunction with OnePoll.

The survey revealed that 17% of respondents currently worked fully remotely and 39% on a hybrid model. Meanwhile, 23% who could work remotely were working full-time in the workplace. This left 21% whose roles did not allow them to work away from the office.

However, perhaps the most telling statistic was that, when asked for their ideal way of working, only 19% of respondents said this would be fully on site or in an office.

This compared with 22% preferring fully remote working and 47% opting for a hybrid model – meaning more than two-thirds of respondents would be against a complete return to the office.

Hybrid working established as the preferred model

Ian Nicholas continued: “The findings from Reed’s survey seem to confirm that working from home, at least some of the time, is the preference for the vast majority of those who are able to do so.

“And what that means is that employers really need to consider whether or not it is necessary for all employees to be fully office-based – or if there is the chance that they can perform at least some of their duties remotely.

“Traditional issues around trust – the view that people were not working unless they were in the office under the eye of management – have, to a large extent, been overcome by the necessity for people to work from home during the pandemic.

“Put simply, companies and individuals have had to make it work, and many have done so. And it may be unwise for companies to now start to ‘rock the boat’ and seek to enforce a universal return.”

This follows recent research published in The Guardian, which suggested that nearly half of company leaders said they would prefer their employees to work more frequently from the office.

Ian Nicholas added that this was a risky move, given the state of the recruitment market across many sectors, with businesses having to compete hard to attract – and retain – the very best talent.

Workers willing to quit if made to return to the office full time

“Things have normalised slightly over the last year or so, but broadly speaking it’s still a seller’s market, with candidates calling the shots. Indeed, the research referenced in The Guardian indicated that more than a third of UK workers would quit if told to return to the office full-time.

“The fact remains that many roles can be undertaken at least partly remotely and businesses who are keen to find and hold onto the best recruits would be well-advised to continue to offer hybrid – or even completely remote – working for those who want it.”


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