WFH crackdown | How firms are risking their employer brand by tightening remote work rules

How firms are risking their employer brand by tightening remote work rules

Employers are toughening up remote working rules, with three out of five UK workers revealing their company has become stricter about making staff come into the office.

But such moves could cause “a great deal of pain” to firms, with a huge impact on employer brand, an expert has warned.

In a survey of 2,000 workers across the nation, conducted by Randstad UK, 60% agreed with the statement: “In the past few months, my employer has become stricter about making sure staff come into the office.”

But the research showed that cutting working from home options may prove counterproductive for organisations.

More than half of the workers polled (54%) described being able to work from home as “non-negotiable”. Women felt more strongly about this than men with 56% saying the same.

And when existing employees were asked what they would do if their employer told them to spend even more time working in the office, 55% said they would consider quitting their job. Millennial and Generation Z workers felt the most strongly with 63% and 62% saying the same, respectively.

Victoria Short, CEO of Randstad UK said: “Organisations digging in and refusing to budge on remote working could face a great deal of pain as a result. They need to keep that in mind, when trying to attract and retain talent.

Mismatch between workers’ remote working demands and their employers

The research also highlighted a disconnect between the amount of time workers wanted to work from home and the amount of time employers wanted them to work in the office.

When asked, “In an ideal world, how many days per week would you work from the office, as opposed to working remotely?” workers wanted to work in the office two-and-a-half days a week.

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Civil servants and those working in telecommunications wanted to spend the least amount of time in the office (2.1 days and two days respectively).

But most employers demand their workers spend more time in the office, with respondents reporting they had to work three days in the office, on average. The industry with the closest match between expectations and reality was financial services, where employees say they want to work two-and-a-half days in the office, on average, and say their employers’ policies demand they work two-and-a-half days in the office.

Remote working essential for new jobs

Randstad also asked workers if they wouldn’t accept a job if it didn’t provide flexibility around where they worked (e.g. working from home), 39% agreed.

Short said: “There are huge numbers of employers whose working from home policies are negatively affecting their employer brand with potential hires and existing talent. They risk haemorrhaging workers and finding it harder — or more expensive — to replace them in 2024. It looks counterproductive.”

When asked about their current job and/or potential future employment, 81% of workers said flexibility in terms of working hours was important to them — unchanged from the previous year.

Flexibility in terms of hours was most important to Millennials (those born between 1981-1996) (84%) and Generation X workers (82%) but was still important to Boomers (79%) and members of Generation Z (78%).

Almost three-quarters of workers (69%) reported that flexibility in terms of location (ie: the ability to work remotely, from home or from other locations) was important to them — also unchanged from the previous year. Boomers — presumably including more managerial roles than other age-groups — reported valuing hybrid and remote options the least (61% view this as important) along with Generation X (65%). Millennials (79%) and Generation Z (74%) valued it more highly.

Pay, security and work-life balance crucial – but ‘values’ less important.

The top three priorities of workers remain unchanged in terms of order: work-life balance (95%— compared to 94% last year); pay (94% — compared to 93% last year); and job security (91% — unchanged).

The research also found that workers looking for new jobs are becoming less interested in their employer’s attitude to sustainability, diversity, transparency. The purpose and values of their employers has become less important to workers with only 22% saying it is very important — compared to 31% a year before — and only 36% describing it as somewhat important, compared to 41% last year.

“Factors that employees value in their current or next jobs are not necessarily constant and employers hoping to attract new workers via a cocktail of benefits will need to adjust their recipe to keep pace with changing tastes,” Short said.

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“When you’re trying to attract and retain staff, you have to be creative with your benefits package as the pendulum of workers’ priorities swings. Fashions change, sands shift, and as an employer working in a talent shortage, you can’t afford to sit on your laurels and rely on an out-of-date benefits package.”

“While an organisation’s ‘mission’ is beginning to feel a bit… 2022, flexibility, including the option to work from home, remains hugely attractive to employees; the good news is that this is a low-cost way for organisations to compete for talent. This means that employers that do not offer some form of hybrid working will continue to be at a disadvantage when hiring. It will affect retention, too.

“A lack of flexibility will prompt career changes among some employees. Flexibility will also help speed up your hiring process.”

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