Wednesday 26 May 2021 6:30 am

Lack of workplace flexibility will prompt a third of workers to leave, survey shows

A third of UK employees would look for a new job if their company did not allow flexible working, according to a new survey.

Findings from UK consultancy Barnett Waddingham, which surveyed more than 2,000 workers, showed that hybrid working has become imperative for employee retention.

Of the 33 per cent who would seek a new job, one in ten of those would immediately plan to leave if they were not allowed to work how they wanted.

Hybrid working a ‘hot topic’

David Collington, associate at Barnett Waddingham, said it is a “hot topic” for businesses to embrace changes in working patterns.

“The risks of not adopting flexibility for the retention of staff are starting to rise to the surface as we begin to move out of lockdown for good.

“Employee sentiment is crystal clear – adopt hybrid working for the future, or people will happily move somewhere where they can work how they like.”

When asked how they would prefer to work once all lockdown restrictions have lifted, just a fifth said they are keen to work mainly in an office.

The most popular post-Covid working environment is to be mostly at home, but sometimes in the office, according to a quarter of those surveyed.

“Studies have shown it is more difficult to build relationships in the digital world,” said Michael Smets, professor at Saïd Business School.

“It remains important to have at least an initial meeting and establish trust. There is a place for both remote working and office working.”

Workers could call out uncooperative employers

Full-time employees who have worked from home during the pandemic are by far the keenest to continue that trend but with some office working, with almost half saying it is their preference.

Just over a tenth of workers would prefer to only be in the office, while 12 per cent would rather only work from home, showing an overwhelming support for hybrid working.

Workers at smaller firms are much more likely to challenge employers that are not supportive of flexibility.

Three quarters of employees at companies with 10 to 49 staff would act, compared to just 57 per cent of workers at firms with more than 5,000 staff.

Helen Lamprell, external affairs director at Vodafone, said that employers must make it easier for people to re-enter the workplace once they are ready.

“Supporting returners helps organisations bridge skills shortages and improve retention and diversity, while supporting those individuals and the wider economy.

“As workplaces continue to adapt and evolve, it is the responsibility of employers to support returners both while they are away and once they return.”

Young workers keen for office return

Younger workers are the keenest to get back to the office full time, with well over a quarter saying that their preference is to attend the workplace.

They are also far more likely to challenge their employer, with three quarters of 18 to 24-year-olds likely to do so compared to 57 per cent of 46 to 64-year-olds.

“Employers now need to focus on gauging the views and preferences of their workforce,” David Collington added.

“Businesses risk their employees feeling dissatisfied and disillusioned with their company, and in today’s competitive job market, the cost of this decision in recruitment and retention terms far outweighs the cost of a nuanced and flexible policy.”