More days in office would see most professionals look for a new job

Ninety percent of professionals would consider looking for a new role, if their employer was to ask them to increase their in-office days, according to a recent survey conducted by recruitment agency, Robert Walters.

The company says the main deterrents for professionals in increasing their office presence are long commutes (41%), disruptions to work-life balance (40%), workplace distractions (11%), and associated costs (9%).

It notes the ongoing debate between professionals and employers regarding office attendance “has intensified since the lifting of pandemic restrictions. The research revealed that most businesses in white-collar industries are still offering flexible working arrangements (82%)”.

The report, which surveyed more than 2,000 white-collar professionals across New Zealand, found that:

  • 40% of the workforce would look for a new job if their employer required them to increase their in-office presence to five days a week.
  • A further 33% said they would if their work from home days were reduced.
  • Another 17% said they would consider looking for a new role if their work arrangements changed but weren’t sure if flexible working was their main priority.
  • Just 10% said they would remain in their current roles despite changes to flexible working arrangements.

However, a considerable number of employers are advocating for increased office attendance, with the recruitment specialists at Robert Walters noting a considerable increase in employers expressing their desire for their staff to spend more time in the office.

Shay Peters, CEO of Robert Walters Australia and New Zealand, says in a statement that since the start of the year, the firm has witnessed a growing number of employers urging their staff to enhance their presence in the office.

“We have even seen some employers starting to mandate five days in the office, but I think this is somewhat unrealistic.”

Shay Peters

The study also highlighted the increasing demand for hybrid work arrangements, which is now recognised as one of the top three benefits sought by professionals across various industries.

Further research conducted by the company revealed that 45% of professionals say work-life balance is the most important factor when considering a new role.

Workplace culture and flexible working arrangements are becoming the primary determining factors in a candidate’s decision to accept a job…

The company says it has observed a significant increase in candidates seeking or preferring roles with flexible working arrangements. “Workplace culture and flexible working arrangements are becoming the primary determining factors in a candidate’s decision to accept a job.”

Peters says that employees need to understand there needs to be a balance between work life and personal life. “In the past, society has put an emphasis on professional life, but it now seems some people have the mindset work is interrupting their personal life.”

Peters adds that by establishing clear expectations and guidelines, “we can foster a productive and harmonious work environment that maximises the benefits of employers and employees. If boundaries aren’t established, this can lead to tension between colleagues which is in no one’s best interests”.

Robert Walters suggested offering alternative options to flexible working to entice people back to the office.

“Rather than offering flexible working without much consideration, employers should offer benefits that align with employee needs and preferences to enhance retention and encourage more in-office attendance. Some possible strategies to bring professionals back to the office include flexible work hours, improved office amenities, assistance with employee expenses such as travel subsidies or meals, among others,” Peters says.

The firm says flexible working arrangements should not be limited solely to the number of office days but also consider the start and end times of shifts. They suggest that flexible shift schedules can offer greater benefits compared to just the quantity of office days.

Learning Opportunities

Peters emphasises the advantages of working in an office environment, including:

  • Increased collaboration with colleagues.
  • Active participation in team projects.
  • Heightened visibility.
  • Skill development opportunities.
  • Mentorship from senior staff.
  • A stronger connection to workplace culture.

“The shift to remote work has revealed a drawback. Individuals may be missing out on valuable learning experiences that are more readily accessible in an office setting. It is important for employees to acknowledge the advantages of increasing their in-office presence and embrace the learning opportunities that come with it,” he says.

Being present in an office environment can also offer comfort during tough times by surrounding yourself with your team.

Peters says that each company is unique, and the pros and cons of offering a flexible working policy vary across industries. Employers will need to address and potentially reassess their working models to see whether offering flexible working options benefit their business.

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