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Great Resignation is swapped for the Great Return

iCIMS latest State of UK Talent report.

The future of the office has been a hotly debated topic by politicians and business leaders alike. Some are strident in their belief that the office is dead, but according to new research*, 70% of the U.K. workforce are working on-site, with a third (31%) preferring to be there full time.

The report* captures the anxiety employees feel as the labour market continues to shift, and the cost of living outpaces salaries in dramatic fashion. The findings show how workforce uneasiness is leading to emerging trends that may reshape the future of work.

The “Great Resignation” is swapped for the “Great Return” – employees find solace in the office during times of economic unease
Virtual work environments became standard over the past two years, leading many to report that remote work would redefine the workplace. But, just 23% of British employees want to work remotely full time.

The “Great Return” also has a second meaning – one in three employees who left their job as part of the Great Resignation are now second guessing that decision and are considering returning to their former employer. This presents an opportunity for employers to win back top talent who left, and to find ways to help existing employees continue to grow their career internally before they decide to make a jump with an external opportunity.

Additional findings include:

  • It is not just one age demographic – Gen Z to Boomers are on board for the “Great Return.” iCIMS’ research on last year’s university graduates revealed that they largely rejected the ideal of full-time remote work. iCIMS’ new research shows that today, many people across various age groups are enjoying their return to on-site work environments. Approximately one third (31%) prefer to work onsite full time, while 23% want a hybrid set up.
  • Londoners want to return to the office least. 46% of workers in the North West prefer to work in person full time. Those in the West Midlands (32%), Northern Ireland (38%), Scotland (39%) and Yorkshire (36%) also prefer to be in their workplaces full time, compared to just 23% in Greater London. Manchester ranks as the top city for full time office work with 51% preferring to work in person five days a week. This is followed by employees in Plymouth (50%), Glasgow (41%), Belfast (39%) and Leeds (34%).
  • Loyalty is “in.” Economic uncertainty could be leading to an increase in employee loyalty. The large majority (86%) of British workers say they care how long they stay with an employer. In fact, two thirds (62%) see themselves staying with the same employer to build a long-term career path.
  • Virtual reality (VR) workplaces may be on the horizon. Though most British workers prefer to be in the office, 17% admit that they expect virtual interactions will be the norm rather than the exception throughout their future career. In the U.S., approximately a third of recent university graduates confirmed they would be comfortable working in a VR environment, such as the metaverse.

Cost of living crisis – Employees are enjoying the office, but cost of commuting soars
Throughout the U.K. pay, excluding bonuses, rose by 4.2% between January and March but failed to keep up with rising inflation – which hit 9.1% in June.

Despite the desire to return to the office, many feel financially unable to return. This conflict in desire and financial ability is forcing many to rethink their employer and search for opportunities where their salaries can keep pace with rising inflation. Additional findings around the cost of living include:

  • Pay up or move on. Money is often the top priority of job seekers, and with the cost of living skyrocketing, there are increased concerns. To this end, more than a third (36%) of U.K. adults say they are job hunting as they need to make more money to keep up.
  • Younger generations struggle to pay the bills. Those aged 23-38 are feeling the crunch. In fact, close to half of Gen Z’ers (46%) and millennials (47%) live paycheck to paycheck and worry they won’t be able to cover their expenses, according to the Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey. Women feel particularly impacted. The iCIMS survey revealed that 39% of women who are looking for a new job are doing so because they need to make more money to keep up with the cost of living.

Advice for Business Leaders
Laura Coccaro, chief people officer at iCIMS, offers these insights for employers looking to retain talent or fill vacancies through this evolving market:

  • Provide clear, visible growth opportunities. With so many employees looking for a long-term career path with an employer, business leaders must provide people with opportunities to grow and advance their career, make internal mobility moves and gain new skills. Data from a recent HR Grapevine study (conducted in partnership with iCIMS) confirmed that the majority of employers (90%) believe that internal mobility is the key to retaining top talent.
  • Offering mental health support matters now more than ever. The current state of the world is leaving many feeling anxious and unsettled. Nearly a third of those surveyed in the U.K. (31%) and U.S. (32%) expect to be provided proper mental health support. Additionally, 35% of U.K. adults expect to be able to talk openly about mental health in the office. Women have more of an expectation of mental health in the workplace than men in the U.K.
  • Don’t forget to support all generations in the workforce. There are five different generations in the workforce. This is an exciting time for employees and candidates, but presents an opportunity for employers to empathise, understand and support staff through their careers and unlock the potential of employees across multiple dimensions of diversity. Over a third of U.K. adults expect support from their employer as they age through a job, as about half claim they have experienced ageism in the workplace.

*iCIMS U.K. State of Talent report

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