Companies predicted to phase out working from home in 2024

Analysts are predicting a shift away from working from home in 2024.

Despite being branded a “revolution” for the millions of regular middle-to-low income workers throughout the pandemic, the narrative against working from home has ramped up.

Those who work jobs performed entirely on a computer immediately found that the idea of companies paying for expensive office buildings in densely populated parts of the city had become redundant.

For many thinking of starting a family, the prospect of returning to early alarms to commute to an office building where they message their colleagues on Google Teams all day is daunting.

Nevertheless, bosses are predicted to hold more power over their employees this year as unemployment levels drop.

“I believe most employers will be pushing for greater office attendance in 2024. With a forecast rise in unemployment, businesses will have the upper hand in negotiations with their employees next year,” SQM Research founder Louis Christopher said via the Australian Financial Review.

Oxford Economics senior economist Maree Kilroy said office occupancy rates will slowly increase throughout the year. But the reality of hybrid working is “here to stay”.

“We think it will take until at least the end of next year for office occupancy rates to stabilise, helped along by a recovery in economic growth forecasts from 2025,” she said.

“Meanwhile, many businesses are using hybrid working arrangements as a method of containing costs, while the economy slows. The shift to more permanent working arrangements is also taking time to play out as investments in new office fit-outs often only occur upon lease expiry.

“Companies may make further efforts to increase office attendance this year by increasing mandatory requirements, but it looks like hybrid working is here to stay.”

Over a quarter (27 per cent) of Australian employers surveyed by lawyers Herbert Smith Freehills for their Future Work report said that they would look at differentiating between the two groups in terms of salary in the next three to five years, with 13 per cent agreeing that remote workers should receive less pay and fewer benefits.

According to the survey, the vast majority of Australian businesses (83 per cent) expect their employees to work more in person over the next two years, higher than any other region with the global average sitting at 70 per cent.

However, this clashes with the preference of workers, who largely enjoy flexible working arrangements according to Australian employment and industrial law barrister Ian Neil SC.

“Employers are clawing back some freedoms permitted during the pandemic, but the working world is forever changed,” he said.

“One constant that began in the pandemic and has remained with us ever since and is very likely to grow is the preference of employees to work remotely rather than come into the office or factory and that’s just going to become more common.”

Bosses around Australia are adopting creative methods they believe will attract workers back to the office.

Some companies have even started linking bonuses and performance reviews to the number of days staff spend in the office.

Many businesses have an expectation that staff will be in the office at least 40 or 50 per cent of the time.

But in 2024, some experts predict there will be an even greater push for people to be physically present with their colleagues.

Angela Ferguson, founder of workplace strategy and design company Futurespace, said more leaders were expecting a full-time return to the office in 2024.

But she said it would be important to motivate, not mandate it with creative in-office incentives and renovations.

“Leaders should look at why they want people in the office,” she told News Corp.

“The key to a successful culture/workspace environment lies in providing opportunities for people to connect while retaining some autonomy.

“Incentives to work from the office will be vastly different for individuals, teams and organisations, and the key to getting this right for any organisation is to understand their people’s needs from the experience of work.”

Ms Ferguson said face-to-face interactions improved productivity, engagement, connection and culture.

“Many leaders are asking staff to come in two or three days a week, which is not an unreasonable request,” she said.

“However, we often find in our engagement with organisations that there is a disconnect or a gap between what staff are seeking and what leadership are seeking in terms of days in the office.

“It’s not only about productivity, it’s also about mental and social wellbeing.

“No matter how introverted people are, as humans we all need some social connection and the workplace is a great environment to foster that.”

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