Is Remote Work Facing A Backlash, Or Winning The Argument?

The potential benefits of remote working came to the fore during the pandemic. But the question of whether to revert to old ways of office-based employment, embrace remote working fully or go for a hybrid model has been a hot debate ever since.

What soon became clear, however, was that the clarion call of ‘back to the office’ made by business leaders and politicians alike was not particularly well received. The genie was out of the bottle as people who had become used to remote working found they enjoyed its flexibility and convenience, as well as the lack of a morning commute or office politics.

Consequently, both in the UK and across the rest of the developed world, many companies concluded that they should offer remote or hybrid working as part of the deal; when recruiting new staff, this is often part of the package.

All that might make your firm conclude that you need specialist help to provide remote IT services. However, after recent developments, some might be left wondering if this is really the case as certain companies appear willing to challenge the new consensus once again.

If ‘back to the office’ was supposed to have been a crusade that swiftly crashed and burned, it appears some major organisations either haven’t read the memo or are stubbornly wedded to the old ideas, perhaps driven by worse-than-expected data on productivity.

Companies doing this include Deutsche Bank – which had previously talked up the productivity benefits of remote working – and Dell.

Reporting on the latter, The Register highlighted the fact that these are not exceptions. It quoted a survey by recruitment agency Randstad UK showing 60 per cent of 2,000 workers surveyed agreed with the statement: “In the past few months, my employer has become stricter about making sure staff come into the office.”

This may raise some pertinent questions. Does it mean that the age of remote working will be short-lived, an experiment in employment styles that is now coming to an end? If so, should you really be investing in more and better remote working capability?

The Register article would suggest not. It pointed to survey data showing that 54 per cent of workers considered the right to work from home to be “non-negotiable” and 55 per cent would resign if forced into the office. That suggests employers may lose talented staff to rivals that offer more flexible working.

Moreover, these figures were higher for younger workers, meaning firms wanting to recruit from Generation Z will be at a disadvantage when trying to capture the best young talent. By contrast, companies that accommodate their hybrid or remote-working ambitions will automatically have a wider talent pool to choose from.

Therefore, it appears that few firms will get away with insistence on office work for long – and those that do may only be very large firms where the size of salary offers enough bait in recruitment. For most companies, the need to provide flexibility and work-life balance will be essential, with remote working being a crucial part of that.

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