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72% of companies, globally, have mandated a return to the workplace

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42% report higher attrition since implementing those policies

According to a new study by global workplace creation company, Unispace, employers across the globe report losing key employees due to return-to-office mandates, with recruitment also being impacted by enforced returns. However, companies are failing to recognise the drivers of workers’ reluctance to return to the workplace, and likewise, the opportunities and value that the physical workplace provides. That is according to a new study by global workplace creation experts Unispace.

Returning for Good, a Unispace Global Workplace Insights report – which combined the results of a survey of 9,500 employees and 6,650 employers from 17 countries worldwide – found that, of the 72% of companies globally that say they have mandated office returns, 42% now report a higher level of employee attrition than anticipated, while almost a third (29%) are struggling to recruit altogether.

The study found that employees are less reluctant to return to the office (51%) than they were in 2021 (64%). With a current reluctance of one in two employees however, there is still much to be done to engage the workforce.

Employers indicate notably higher levels of confidence around talent attraction activities carried out in the office when compared to remote, particularly for recruitment (89% versus 73%) and training new staff (84% versus 70%).

An overwhelming majority of employers (84%) also indicated that career prospects would be limited to those who work exclusively from home.

Three in four business leaders surveyed (75%) indicated that they have increased their real estate portfolio in the last two years, with companies across APAC reporting the highest rates of growth. This expansion includes talent attraction and revenue-generating trends such as creating hospitality spaces by 44% of firms.

Employers currently failing to recognise what employees need and value most

The study also revealed that employers have not recognised the challenges that employees have with their current workplace set up. The majority (58%) of workers indicated that they struggle to carry out their core job in the office due to distractions. Meanwhile, 83% of employers say they believe that the office is set up to allow their employees to be productive.

Employers also underestimate key workplace dislikes. Employees put a premium on productivity and personal space – citing missing the privacy they can access at home (31%), the ability to be more effective in a quiet environment away from the office (27%) and feeling more productive at home (23%) as top dislikes. In comparison, employers suggested that the commute was the biggest barrier to getting workers back into the workplace.

Joanna Fagbadegun, Sales Director at Lorien commented: “The results of the Unispace study don’t come as a huge shock – the culture clash between employees and employers in relation to returning to the office has been brewing for several months now. When I talk to clients, contacts, colleagues, friends and family about work, the discussion inevitably turns to remote vs hybrid, but more importantly – choice. Choice around which days and/or how many days you work from home vs the office. As prospective candidates and employees emerge into post-pandemic life it’s not one size fits all, and I think the increased desire to see staff return to the office comes at an incredibly tricky time; in the UK we’re dealing with record interest rates, unreliable public transport due to strikes, high costs of commuting… and to top it all off, your lunchtime sandwich and drink rarely leave you with much change from a tenner anymore.

The Unispace study reflects findings from Lorien’s recent UK candidate sentiment research survey, “What Tech Candidates Want”. We discovered that no under 25s surveyed want to work in the office full time, and that 61% of 35–44-year-old candidates surveyed wanted to work remotely all of the time.

It’s hard to say which way it will go as the market shifts away from being so dominantly candidate-led. I suspect there is a mental game of ‘chicken’ being played between employers and employees in relation to the return to the office, and it’s now a case now of who will blink first!”

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