Vacancies for remote roles fall from peak as companies return to the office, figures show

Experts warn the stigma around flexible working could be returning ‘with a vengeance’

The number of remote working vacancies has dropped by a quarter over the last three months as people return to workplaces, new data has revealed.

The number of vacancies advertised as remote fell from a high of 130,000 in June this year to 99,000 in August, according to New Street Consulting Group.

This 24 per cent drop comes after the pandemic saw an increase in the proportion of remote jobs advertised from 0.8 per cent before the pandemic to a peak of 4.3 per cent in August this year.

For the first time since before the pandemic, the proportion of remote jobs has dropped to just 3.1 per cent of all jobs being advertised. 

Natalie Douglass, director at New Street Consulting Group, said the way businesses quickly adapted to the pandemic had brought into question whether office-based working was necessary for many businesses.

But, she said: “With the number of advertised remote roles peaking in June, the true indicator of long-term sentiment will be in the coming months.

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“Businesses should be using this time to test and learn to identify what works best for them and their team,” Douglass said, adding that those that fare best in the long run would be the ones that struck a balance between the needs of the business and the desires of their workforce.

“This will look different across sectors and organisations but will most likely combine hybrid and flexible working models,” she said.

The figures suggest that the stigma around flexible working that existed pre-pandemic might be returning “with a vengeance”, said Gemma Dale, lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University, despite employee preference and evidence that flexible working does not necessarily harm productivity.

“Only in the last few days we have seen various people from the government criticising people who are still working from home, with a developing narrative that decent employees, or those that want a career or progression need to get back to the office,” said Dale.

“Only time will tell whether we will return to this figure or whether hybrid working will become the future of work.”

Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser for resourcing and inclusion at the CIPD, said businesses should still be working with employees to offer flexible solutions.

“Ultimately, employers can decide where their employees work but it’s clear many people want to work more flexibly, so employers should consult with their staff and try to work out solutions that suit both the organisation and employees,” she said.

“Employers should recognise the strong business case for flexible working and the benefits it can bring to organisations and individuals, such as improved performance and engagement and better work-life balance,” McCartney said.

She added in some cases employers might also need to consider flexible working when making reasonable adjustments to support someone with a disability or health condition.