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Flexible working

Employers pave the way for the return-to-the-office revolution – but at what cost to their staff?

Businesses face employee resistance as they transition to in-person work.

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90% of companies aim to implement return-to-office.
Birmingham was the most expensive city to commute in for hybrid workers.
72% revenue increase with in-person work highlights the economic motivation.

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As business leaders push for a full-time return to the office after three years of remote working – they face a backlash from employees dragging their heels. With remote working being the norm for most Brits – how will employers lure their workforce back to the office? TALiNT International recently published research on this ‘clash of the cultures’ and it seems the return to in-person work sentiment is gaining ground…

 It comes as a new study revealed that up to 90% of companies aim to implement return-to-office (RTO) policies by the end of 2024 citing work-in-person improves revenue by up to 72%. As new obligations to head to the office full-time come into force, employees are reluctant to sacrifice their work-life balance in exchange for an expensive commute.

Frustrated by the absence of office workers and leading the movement to get employees back in the office is Goldman Sachs ‘reminding’ their staff that five days a week is ‘required’. Google plans to start factoring employees’ in-office attendance into their performance reviews. Across the globe, companies are reviewing their hybrid work policy and clamping down on workers who flout the current rules.

As more people work from home, coffee shops or co-working spaces, companies have been motivated to invest in or develop new technologies to make working anywhere as seamless as possible. On the flip side, businesses that relinquished their offices during the pandemic are under pressure to find workspace for their employees to return to.

The challenge between traditional office advocates and flexible-working employees continues, and the ability to find the right balance is the key to success.

In response to an increase in staff being asked to return to the office to pre-pandemic levels, ECI Software Solutions created the Cost of Commuting Index revealing the percentage of salary that employees will spend travelling to work each month. The study analysed 20 of the UK’s most populated cities, looking at the cost of trains, parking, coffee prices and more to reveal the residents who will be most impacted by increased days in the office.

Data reveals that Birmingham was the most expensive city to commute in for hybrid workers – with employees spending up to 16% of their salary travelling in each month. Birmingham was highlighted as the most expensive place to commute by car followed by London being the priciest by train (based on a 40-minute commute for 2.5 days a week). Bristol, Sheffield and Edinburgh rank towards the bottom for commuting by car and Edinburgh has the lowest commute expenses with only 11% of the average salary spent on parking costs.

With companies arguing there’s no substitute for working together in person the battle between employer and the flexible-working employee continues. Commenting on the complex issue of return-to-work Declan Slattery, Director of the Employer Programme and Chair of TALiNT Partners’ Global Advisory Board said: “The return-to-office debate remains a crucial conversation among our community of TA leaders, and it’s a consideration that isn’t going away anytime soon. Employers walking the fine line and effectively articulating the benefits of office work will be the ones to succeed in this transformation. As business leaders advocate for a full-time office return, it’s clear that the workforce is pushing back after years of remote work. With remote work becoming the norm, how will employers entice their employees back into the office? The study showing a potential 72% revenue increase with in-person work highlights the economic motivation, but the reluctance to sacrifice work-life balance and bear the cost of commuting is real. The shift towards full-time office presence by companies like Goldman Sachs and Google factoring it into performance reviews further intensifies the debate. The challenge between traditional office advocates and flexible-working employees continues, and the ability to find the right balance is the key to success.”

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