Lynne Griffiths, CEO of Sirius Talent Solutions, shares her expert insights on work and recruitment trends in 2024
While we’ve seen an increasing demand from employers for staff to return to the office, the majority of employees prefer a hybrid working model. The number of days in the office is the sticking point – along with the commuting costs – and for some this has been non-negotiable when it comes to accepting or declining a job offer.
Many employers have pushed the hybrid model to its extreme in trying to get staff back into the office, with many companies yet to find the right balance between home and office working, so I believe this will continue to be a dynamic conversation throughout 2024.
Both employers and employees are realising it can be challenging to maintain or build a culture when you don’t have an in-person presence. From our experience, candidates have a clear preference for hybrid working with one or two days a week in the office, while employers are pushing towards three days a week in the office. Flexibility remains crucial in the battle for ‘Employer of Choice’.
The definition of hybrid will differ by organisation. It may mean a specified two or three days in the office, or the ability to come into the office on days that suit each individual employee, or even just certain days of the month that all employees gather face to face. This will continue to be defined and redefined as we all figure out the optimal solution.
Some more enlightened employers realise that a degree of flexibility is a positive because it makes people more productive. They have eschewed the rigidity of mandating office attendance on specific days in favour of working out what the optimal schedule is for in-person or team meetings. It’s clear that most employees are in harmony with purposeful office visits but not when those visits consist solely of tasks that could be completed remotely.
Another increasingly common and sought-after work benefit is a flexible work schedule. By allowing employees to flex their working schedules, by even an hour on either side of the traditional 9 to 5, employers can give their workers the ability to fit their work around their personal commitments as well as to take advantage of quieter (and cheaper) commuting hours. Some employers had adopted this approach many years ago, but we’ve seen a sharp uptake of companies now offering flexible working to attract and retain the best talent.
2023 saw the UK’s largest four-day-week trial conclude. The results were hailed as a “breakthrough moment” by the organisers, as they showed the shorter work week brought improvements to retention, recruitment, productivity and turnover.
More businesses are warming to the idea of a four-day week, with a high proportion of corporate decision-makers in the UK considering its introduction. While a major increase in adoption has yet to be seen, it is gaining traction on both sides.
This is partly being driven by the demand from employees, in particular Gen Z/Millennials, for more flexible working. With employers resisting remote working, we may see some organisations offer initiatives like the four-day week as a compromise in flexibility. However, we’ve seen little evidence of this initiative in the business travel industry so far and in a recent survey we conducted, 28% cited a desire for flexible working as their key driver for changing jobs in 2024.
The debate on working models that shaped the world of work in 2023 will continue in 2024 and indeed may be affected by the new flexible working regulations due to take effect on April 6 which will enshrine, in law, the right of employees to request flexible working arrangements from day one of their employment.