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UK Workforce Expects Flexible Working Options To Stay

​Over 90% of MERJE’s recruitment team have experienced candidates saying they are not interested in a role based on the lack of remote working flexibility on offer

We asked our 20,500 LinkedIn followers and the results were clear:

  • More than three-quarters (76%) of candidates would decline a job offer if flexible working wasn’t an option

  • 42% of workers have started looking for a new role because their current business is not offering adequate flexible working options

This is why businesses need to offer a flexible working model to attract and retain the best talent.

Read on to find out more...

The flexible working movement was undoubtedly rising to the fore years before Covid reared its head. However, following the pandemic and working from home becoming the norm, we’ve observed that a significant number of candidates have declined job offers or are not considering vacancies because the businesses in question have implemented full-time return-to-office policies.

In fact, 9 out of 10 MERJE recruitment experts have recently spoken to candidates who would only consider job opportunities if they offered at least some degree of flexible working.

There has always been a small proportion of the job-seeking population that has required some level of working flexibility, for example, working parents and part-time students. However, these individuals were always in the minority and generally had to accept that their employment opportunities would be limited due to their non-standard requirements.

Now, in the wake of the pandemic and with many professionals having had a taste of flexible working life, it is clear that remote and flexible working options are no longer considered a ‘perk’ by the UK workforce, but a typical component of any suitable role.

This is evidenced by our recent investigation into the topic on LinkedIn. We asked two essential questions;

One: Are you starting to look for a new role because you have been asked to return to the office for more days a week than you would like to?


Two: Would you decline a job offer or retract your interest in a job opportunity if the hiring company expected you to be in the office full time?

The results were resounding. Nearly half (42%) of respondents said yes, they had picked up their job search because of a disagreeable return to work policy from their current employer, and a definitive 76% said they would not be interested in an opportunity if the hiring business required full-time in-office working.

It’s hard to argue with that. Respondents shared insights into their thinking, with comments such as:

Flexibility for employees is critical. I’ve been working flexibly for 20 years now and have continued to be productive that whole time.”

“If it was without good reason or willingness to negotiate (say three days in the office and two days WFH) then I wouldn't take [the job offer]. Not because I have a problem going in but because it conveys a “don’t care” attitude towards staff.”

This is a sentiment we agree with, as our consultants have observed how some companies do appear to have blanket policies in place. Often, these policies don't appear to be based on tangible reasoning, nor take into account personal sets of circumstances, and can frequently result in employees feeling restricted or undervalued.

Our recent research is backed up by the insights we gained from another LinkedIn poll, conducted towards the end of 2020 during the peak Covid-19 period. At that time, when many workplaces were closed due to lockdown restrictions, we asked our followers how often they would like to come into the office once they were able to fully reopen.

Correlating with our recent research, 3 in 5 respondents said they would only want to be in the office one to two days a week, while 12% said they would not expect to be in the office at all.

There is plenty of further evidence which backs up our own findings. A poll of 1,000 UK workers, conducted by Ernst & Young as part of its 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey, found that four in five employees wanted flexible working options, with 39% saying they would like more choice in when they work and 43% wanting choice in where they worked from.

This trend towards widespread flexible working doesn’t seem to come as too much of a surprise to businesses. A recent survey from Acas found that over half (55%) of employers in Great Britain expect an increase in demand for flexible forms of working after the pandemic. Furthermore, research by global advisory business Willis Tower Watson found that only three in 10 UK employers expect to have their workforce fully back onsite in two years' time.

The benefits of offering workplace flexibility is a topic we’ve touched on multiple times in the past. Encouraging flexible working can improve workplace culture, support people when they return to work after parental leave, benefit breastfeeding working mums, help religious employees during certain times such as Ramadan, alleviate post-Covid return to work stress, prevent employee burnout and even have environmental advantages.

All of this is why MERJE has always operated a flexible working model, affording our employees the freedom and trust to carry out their duties when and where they feel works best for them. It was inevitable that increased numbers of our staff would be working from home more frequently due to Covid-19, and with us recently celebrating our most successful half year to date, it is clear that the benefits of offering flexible working really do speak for themselves.

As Jo, HR professional and our Head of Business Support, says,

“There are people who thrive in a busy office and others who prefer a quiet calm atmosphere. Having the flexibility to work from home or [the] office creates a happy workforce.”

For some top tips on successfully implementing a flexible working model in your business, read our previous article all about the rise of flexible working.

If you would like to discuss this or any of the topics covered in our articles, get in touch.