Half of employees would quit without flexible working post-pandemic, poll finds

Employers warned that retention will be a ‘problem’ if they fail to listen the labour market

Nearly half of employees would consider leaving their job after the pandemic if their employer did not offer flexible working, research has found.

A poll of 1,000 UK workers, conducted by EY as part of its 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, found that four in five wanted flexibility where they worked, and 47 per cent went as far as to say they would consider changing their jobs if flexible working wasn’t an option.

When asked about what sort of flexibility employees wanted, 39 per cent said they would like more choice in when they work, and 43 per cent wanted choice in where they worked.

David Storey, EY’s workforce advisory leader for Europe, the Middle East, India, and Africa, said for many employers the pandemic has demonstrated “both the desire and the ability to increase flexibility. 

“Our survey data shows that a flexible work regime that meets the needs of the business and its people will support attraction and retention efforts and should be front and centre of future talent strategies.”

This was echoed by Louise Aston, wellbeing director at Business in the Community, who said the findings showed where we worked was becoming less important. “Working from home and hybrid working have created opportunities for businesses to take a more individual, personalised approach to new ways of working,” she said.

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“These new ways of working are about putting people first to embrace an inclusive approach where employees are listened to, and where their feedback is considered at the highest level in the organisation.”

The EY research found the increase in flexible working since the pandemic has also led to more demand for technology. Two-thirds (64 per cent) of employees said they want better technology in the office, such as faster internet and videoconferencing capabilities, and almost half (43 per cent) want companies to upgrade at-home hardware, such as extra monitors and headsets.

The research also found that, despite the increase in virtual meeting technology, more than two-thirds of workers would like to travel for business after the pandemic.

But, despite wanting more flexible working arrangements, almost eight in 10 (79 per cent) of people were satisfied with their jobs, and 88 per cent planned to stay in their current roles for another 12 months.

However, while employees may not leave their roles immediately if they were not offered flexible working, Jane O’Gorman, director of flexible working recruitment consultancy Ten2Two, warned that staff are always looking for “employers who listen to employees’ needs”.

“Retention will be a problem if employers don’t think about what the market is saying,” she said. “They could be risking high employee turnover and dissatisfaction – people have realised that work-life balance matters.”