In many countries, the first Monday in May is International Labour Day. It’s a time to celebrate those who are driving the economy forward.

But, while a time for positive reflection, it also serves as an important reminder as to why we need  a renewed commitment to employee wellbeing, as business leaders navigate the complexities of an evolving labour market.

It’s an employee’s world right now. We’re seeing employees unafraid to ask for what they want and need from their employer. Whether it’s learning and development on certain topics to further their career growth – such as around the acceleration of AI. Or, the right to work more flexibly to suit their own personal commitments and needs – from childcare commitments, right through to caring for an elderly or unwell relative.

But, in spite of this, right now, we’re seeing more companies – especially big tech – requesting employees return to the office five days per week. Data from Resume Builder reveals that 90% of companies plan to implement return-to-office policies by the end of 2024, with nearly 30% stating they’ll threaten to fire employees who won’t comply with in-office requirements.

Even though requests to return to the office may be on the rise, office occupancy has remained low, and workers (40%) say they prefer flexible working arrangements. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the future of work, research shows a blanket return to the office isn’t the answer. So what does the future look like?

Working for global companies

 According to Deel’s most recent Global Hiring Report, the hiring of UK talent by international companies increased by nearly 10% last year. This likely correlated with the elimination of fully remote roles and employees’ desire to continue to work more flexibly.

Global employers are eager to tap into UK talent, wanting more control over their working patterns, to help their own companies grow and innovate in emerging areas like AI. But what’s more important to recognise is that employers aren’t just driving the uptick in global hiring. Workers (71%) continue looking for distributed and hybrid roles and often choose companies that offer hybrid work versus strict in-person working.

Employee satisfaction & opening talent pools

High-performing employees frequently interpret stricter attendance policies as a sign that their organisation does not trust them to make the best decisions about how they complete their work. Meanwhile, others may want to come into the office to feel more connected to the company culture. Each individual requires a tailored approach.

Recent research of 137 S&P500 companies shows that return-to-office mandates are more likely in firms with poor recent stock performance and don’t positively impact employees or a business’s bottom line. Glassdoor data found RTO mandates significantly reduce employee ratings for job satisfaction, work-life balance, and senior management retention. The study also found no significant impact of RTO mandates on firm profitability or stock returns.

What can change a business’ growth and trajectory is widening its talent pools to those outside a 30-mile radius of its office. Companies can find the best talent for their company, not just the best talent nearby, by allowing employees to choose where and when they work. In return, employees are more productive, loyal and have higher levels of job satisfaction.

For recruiters looking to hire a diverse skill set into the business, it’ll be essential to remember what job seekers are looking for in their new roles – and work with business leaders on workplace perks that attract this talent into the business. A robust and flexible working policy gives employees autonomy and control over their work lives. It serves as an effective recruitment tool and gives employees the freedom to manage their work schedules across suitable locations.

Thriving local economies

 As hybrid settings become the norm, we expect a positive knock-on impact on local economies, smaller towns, and villages.

Numerous towns and cities across the UK have recently undergone remarkable regeneration and development initiatives. These efforts have resulted in the development of new homes, job opportunities, office spaces, improved transport links, and green spaces. This comes as many individuals opted to move out of city centres at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Businesses can continue supporting local economies while widening their talent pools through hybrid work opportunities.

For example, hybrid work has the potential to reshape the distribution of economic prosperity, resulting in a more balanced landscape across regions. For businesses opting to tap into talent pools outside of major urban centres, it becomes possible to reduce economic concentration in metropolitan areas, spurring regional development and supporting the flourishing of small businesses in local communities. Especially on the days that employees work from their local areas.

Furthermore, a recent study found that flexible working encourages more working mothers to enter and stay in the workforce. The paper showed that a 10% increase in working from home increases mothers’ employment by 1%. This drives faster economic growth by increasing the labour supply and opening up talent pools for more diverse recruitment opportunities.

The future of work 

As organisations consider the future of work, it is critical to move away from one-size-fits-all solutions and focus on becoming more flexible and adaptable. The days of rigid office norms are giving way to a more fluid and dynamic work environment, in which employees have the freedom to work how, when, and where they want. Businesses that embrace this mindset shift can create an environment that attracts top talent, fosters innovation and drives long-term growth.

Matt Monette
Head of Expansion & Country Lead for the UK&I at Deel | + posts

Matt Monette is the Head of Expansion & Country Lead for the UK&I at Deel. He has worked at hyper growth SaaS companies most of his career.