Employees want flexibility. Employers want them in the office. How can we bridge the gap?

| October 12, 2023

Flexible working arrangements remain popular among employees, according to a survey by recruitment company Randstad. The survey found that more than half (54%) of white-collar workers consider job flexibility as or more important than pay. Blue- and gray-collar workers also listed flexibility as highly important, with 42% and 48%, respectively, ranking it as equal or more important than pay. 

Although flexible working arrangements are highly desired by employees, according to a survey of decision makers by Resume Builder, 90% of employers surveyed plan to implement return-to-work policies by 2024. While there are clear benefits to working onsite, such as improved company culture and collaboration, pressuring employees to return to the office can increase turnover and harm recruitment. To avoid employee backlash and retention issues, employers must develop policies that balance the cultural benefits of in-person work with employees' needs and wants. Here are a few tips:

  • Give a Compelling Reason to Return to the Office. According to a 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index survey, 73% of employees surveyed said they need a better reason to return to the office than "company expectations." So, what would motivate them to come back? According to a survey, the top reasons cited include ability to reconnect with their teams, collaborate in person, and socialize. Some ways employers can meet this need is by creating collaboration spaces and social groups, and host events like happy hours.
  • Adopt results-based evaluation techniques. This means focusing on employees' end results rather than how much time they spend working. This gives employees more control over their personal and professional lives and making them more likely to return to the office.
  • Focus on employer branding. A strong employer brand can help employers attract and retain top talent. Organizations can use testimonials, interviews with employees, case studies, and positive employer reviews to strengthen their employer branding. They can also reevaluate their hiring process to focus on developing relationships with candidates based on transparency and communication.
  • Encourage work-life boundaries. Promote work-life balance by encouraging employees to leave their laptops at work and not to check their emails outside of work hours. Emphasizing organizational values of work-life balance can attract employees to return to the office without making them feel like they have to give up the freedom of remote or hybrid work.
  • Use incentives. Small incentives, such as free food and office snacks, can go a long way toward increasing employees' desire to work in an office. Employers can also consider subsidizing employees' commutes and offering professional development opportunities in the office, such as training and mentorship opportunities.

Recruiting, hiring and retaining employees for on-site positions can be challenging amid employees’ calls for increased flexibility. However, employers can reassure employees that in-person work will positively impact them by leveraging company culture, work-life balance and career advancement opportunities. Employers who successfully leverage the benefits of in-person work for employees can make in-person positions stand out against comparative remote and hybrid positions and may experience improved employee satisfaction, engagement and retention.