One in three Australian businesses say employees have resigned due to back-to-office mandates

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Source: supplied.

Nearly a third of surveyed Australian businesses have had an employee resign due to in-office requirements, global recruiting firm Robert Half claims, demonstrating the tension between worker preferences and the managerial push for centralised work.

In a new survey of 300 CFOs, CIOs, and hiring managers from companies with at least 50 employees, 31% of respondents said at least one staff member has left the business in response to office work mandates.

Some 40% of those business leaders expect staff to leave due to those requirements.

The findings come as Australian businesses steadily wind back the remote work privileges which became standard during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Major Australian companies including Commonwealth Bank and NAB are among the most high-profile businesses to usher workers back into the office, with CBA now asking workers to spend at least half of their working hours on-site.

That particular move faces opposition from the Finance Sector Union, which has filed a complaint with the Fair Work Commission, claiming CBA staff were not adequately consulted and that many report higher productivity when working from home.

“Australian employer sentiments relating to working from home has shifted in the last six months,” said Nicole Gorton, director at Robert Half.

“Businesses have put their foot down and allocated in-office days for their staff.”

Survey data shows 87% of businesses have issued some form of in-office mandate as of July this year.

Only 19% have ordered staff to complete all five days of the working week in the office.

Four days a week is the most common mandate, with 28% of respondents granting one remote working day a week.

Just 2% of survey respondents said they have mandated one day a week of in-office work.

Of the surveyed businesses which have leveled new office mandates, 40% say it is important to have meetings face-to-face.

Some 37% said productivity is improved when staff work in the office, echoing a common refrain among business leaders who have issued office mandates.

Tellingly, 31% said they need to make use of office space, speaking to concerns among the commercial real estate industry that prolonged hybrid working arrangements will lower economic activity in Australian CBDs.

A quarter said the progression of younger employees is limited when working from home.

On the other side of the equation, Australian tech giant Atlassian recently circled its lenient ‘Team Anywhere’ policy as a contributing factor to its encouraging FY23 results.

“Whether all-remote or hybrid, distributed teams are the future of work,” the company said last week in a note to investors.

Gorton said while managing a hybrid workforce “has its challenges”, companies “should not pull back on remote work policies altogether”.

It is vital to get the mix right, she added, “otherwise, employers risk losing good staff.”


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