James Henderson

Australian businesses ‘put foot down’ as 87% mandate return to office

Australian businesses have introduced policies that mandate the number of days employees must spend in the office, as remote working sentiment swings back in the direction of pre-pandemic levels.

Spanning all industry sectors including technology, 87% of organisations now require staff to attend the office rather than work from home, following 59% of companies planning to increase the number of days onsite at the start of the year.

According to Robert Half findings, four days (28%) a week is the most popular mandate ahead of a full-scale return from Monday to Friday (19%). Either way, multiple days a week is overwhelmingly preferred by employers who require staff in the office, with only 2% citing an appearance on one day of the week as enough.

“Australian employer sentiments relating to working from home has shifted in the last six months,” said Nicole Gorton, Director at Robert Half. “Businesses have put their foot down and allocated in-office days for their staff.”

Nicole Gorton (Robert Half)

As noted by Gorton, businesses are enforcing days in the office due to the importance of having meetings face to face (40%), while also improving productivity levels (37%) and maintaining corporate culture (34%).

Furthermore, 31% of businesses are seeking to make use of office space with 30% finding managing virtual teams more difficult than in-person. Also, a quarter (25%) of companies believe the career progression of junior employees is limited by working from home.

“While the benefits of bringing people back are extensive, careful consideration needs to be taken when making changes to something of utmost significance to the staff, especially if a business’s work-life harmony benefits are what got candidate through the door,” Gorton added.

“Mandating makes people feel like they have been stripped of this choice. To manage this in a way that makes employees still feel looked after, employers could adapt a flexible approach and let staff pick which three or four days will fit their schedule the best to come into the office.”

Gorton said such mandates have resulted in 31% of businesses losing at least one employee with 40% expecting other staff to resign as a result of in-office requirements.

“Flexibility and choice is not only valued by many professionals but is now a non-negotiable for those who relished the arrangement over the past three years,” Gorton noted.

Despite acknowledging that a hybrid workforce comes with additional challenges and that employers require more people to return to the office, Gorton said companies should not pull back on remote work policies altogether.

“When employers pay attention to both the employee and the business’ needs, embrace the options and conduct extensive planning, they can get the mix right and reap the rewards of an engaged and productive team,” she warned. “Otherwise, employers risk losing good staff.”


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