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One in five employers to reject post-pandemic WFH

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Goldman Sachs is not the only business keen to get its staff back into the office as soon as possible if the results of a new survey are anything to go by.

Even since the bank’s CEO David Solomon told a conference in February that he rejected the idea that remote working was the “new normal” and instead described it as an “aberration”, there’s been an undercurrent of unease about the future of flexible working.

Now a study by accountancy, finance and HR recruiter Wade Macdonald has laid bare the extent to which employers are planning for a return to the pre-Covid way of working.

According to research for its report Employee Expectations 2021, which surveyed 395 employees, one in five employers had already rejected any form of flexible working, while a further 12% had not yet clarified whether any flexibility would be offered.

But employers’ desires for a return to office working were at odds with employees’ wishes, with only 9% of workers wanting to be in the office full-time. The majority (69%) wanted some form of hybrid working, while 22% wanted to work from home all the time.

Chris Goulding, Managing Director for Wade Macdonald, said: “Employers not willing to at least meet staff halfway must be prepared to see a significant decrease of staff loyalty, employee numbers and brand reputation.”

Putting loyalty to the test
This emerging disparity between employers and employees on flexible working threatens to roll back some of the recent gains make in terms of employee loyalty in particular, which by a number of accounts had increased during the pandemic.

For example, the latest edition of Randstad’s Employer Brand Research report found that businesses’ responses to the pandemic had led 68% of employees to feel more loyal towards their employer, with only 6% reporting they felt less loyal.

However, the research, which surveyed 190,000 people across 34 markets in the first quarter of this year, also found that non-financial factors had become almost as important as salary and benefits to workers.

While 62% cited the latter as the most important factor in their choice of employer, 58% cited a desire for a proper work-life balance.

Any unwillingness by employers to meet this demand by offering flexible work patterns could therefore see the newfound employee loyalty quickly dissipate.

London not calling

Indeed, this could prove particularly true for companies in London, with separate research from Guidant Global warning of a talent exodus from London.

It analysed the UK cities losing and gaining talent, and found that the capital was losing more highly skilled professionals than it was gaining as people sought to leave the “rat race” behind.

In particular, the smaller towns and cities these professionals were moving to were cited as Epsom, St Albans, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone, Welwyn Garden City and Leigh-on-Sea.

This could leave London employers with little choice but to accept at least some form of remote working, said Simon Blockley, CEO of Guidant Global.

“One of the side effects we’re seeing of the pandemic is a migration of talent from previously popular and crowded cities to other, more remote destinations that often offer better value for money when it comes to living costs as well as a better quality of life.

“The simple fact is, remote working has been proven to be feasible in many cases, so people are now more eager to make those permanent relocation moves of which they have dreamed. The challenge for employers now is to not only broaden the geographical scope of their workforce solutions, but also re-evaluate where top talent is now located. For those with a London base, the resources you need are unlikely to still be in the same place.”

Photo courtesy of Canva.com

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