A recent poll of 2,000 UK professionals by specialist international recruitment company Robert Walters reveals that 53 percent of professionals would initiate a job search if required to work more days in the office.

The study highlights the shift in employee expectations, with 46 percent citing associated costs as a significant deterrent to spending additional days in the office.

Hybrid and flexible working arrangements emerge as the top concern for over two-fifths (41%) of professionals in 2024, indicating the pivotal role these working models play in influencing the modern workplace.

Contrary to these preferences, 36 believe that working more days in the office contributes positively to their weekly routine.

Despite the findings, almost three-quarters of company leaders (73%) acknowledge the resistance and confirm that a full return-to-office is not on the horizon for the upcoming year. This sentiment aligns with the Robert Walters 2024 salary survey, which positions hybrid-working among the top three most desired benefits across various professional fields.

A well-defined hybrid model

Chris Eldridge, CEO of Robert Walters UK, emphasises the importance of a well-defined hybrid working model as a key factor for talent attraction and retention in 2024. Eldridge remarks, “The pandemic not only opened the door to hybrid-working but made it a mainstay in many companies. It also proved that there just isn’t a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to ways of working and keeping productivity levels up across a workforce.”

The primary issue expected to impact workplaces this year, according to 45 percent of professionals, is ‘changes to hybrid-working.’ This outranks concerns related to rewards and benefits schemes (20%), advancements in generative AI (19%), and effective leadership (16%).

Office deterrents identified by professionals include associated costs (46%), disruption to work-life balance (28%), long commutes (16%), and workplace distractions (10%). Eldridge notes, “Spending money on the commute to work, buying lunch amongst other expenses presents yet another key obstacle for professionals returning to the office.”

Despite the hurdles, some professionals are drawn back to the office by benefits such as improved weekly routines (36%), brainstorming with colleagues (26%), in-person meetings (24%), and more facetime with senior figures (14%).

Three ways to encourage employees back to the office:

  1. Assisting with employee spend – Subsidizing travel, providing breakfast or lunch packages are low-cost incentives to alleviate daily costs.
  2. Upscaling mentorship/training opportunities – Offering mentorship programs or additional training opportunities in the office provides a significant draw for professionals looking to upskill.
  3. Organizing brainstorming sessions or interactive Q&As with senior figures – Creating a more open, collaborative, and communicative culture can be a big draw for professionals returning to the office.

While 63 percent of UK CEOs predict a full return-to-office by 2026, the resistance revealed in the Robert Walters poll indicates the need for a careful balance between flexibility and in-office collaboration. Eldridge concludes, “There is definitely a balance to strike with flexible working. If more days in the office are what companies want – the onus is on senior leadership teams to make the office the heart of their work community and inform professionals of what can be gained by returning.”





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.