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Bosses failing to offer hybrid work lose out in recruitment

Gartner finds pandemic-related trend is becoming the norm

By the end of 2023, only 9 percent of knowledge workers worldwide will be fully remote, but 39 percent will combine remote and office-based work, according to analysis by Gartner.

The shift is more pronounced in the US, with 51 percent of knowledge workers – those outside retail, manual and semi-skilled work and direct physical services and care – getting hybrid working arrangements while 20 percent will be fully remote.

The topic of remote working has become divisive in the last couple of years as companies struggled to find the right balance. Although pandemic-related lockdowns necessitated working from home, some businesses were happy to see the trend continue, while others favor back-to-the-office mandates.

In tech, for example, CRM giant Salesforce set out flexible working options, but fellow SaaS vendor Workday, which specializes in HR and finance applications, took a different view. CEO Aneel Bhusri said he was a "big believer that we're going to be back in the office."

Office working – and sleeping – mandates have also been a feature of electric car and rocket merchant Elon Musk's controversial takeover of the social media platform Twitter.

However companies failing to accommodate workers' preferences for hybrid working risk losing out to competitors in terms of recruitment and retention, Gartner senior director and analyst Ranjit Atwal told The Register.

"The problem is, we've got these headlines from US banks and others that are saying, 'We want everybody to come back to the office: let's get back to where we were.' That's really not feasible, from an employee perspective," he said.

Positions employers insist must be fulfilled five days a week in the office will go down the applicant's preferred list of job opportunities compared with similar positions that offer flexibility, he said.

Dell said last autumn that given the perennial skills shortage in the tech industry, vendors wanting to attract the best talent need to be mindful of proximity bias.

Employers should also reconsider how they measure their workforce output and get used to the idea that the "visibility" of workers is not the same as outcomes.

"What's changed here is what companies want from employees. Do they want visibility? At the same time, how do they measure productivity? We're encouraging organizations to evaluate how they measure productivity. It is not just measuring the things people are doing, but the effectiveness of outcomes for the organization," Atwal said.

It is something organizations will need to get used to quickly. Gartner found that in the US, the number of fully remote and hybrid knowledge workers will account for 71 percent of the workforce in 2023 while in the UK, 67 percent of knowledge workers are set to enjoy fully remote and hybrid working arrangements.

Those anticipating the office working style of the Before Times look like they will have to wait. ®

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