European employers mull reducing pandemic remote working options, study finds

Tight labour market means employers still need to offer some flexibility to attract and retain talent, Littler survey shows
A photo of people walking to work

Almost a third of employers expect employees to work in-person full-time Shutterstock

Almost a third of European employers are requiring workers to be in the office full-time as pandemic-era remote working programmes are increasingly wound down, according to Littler’s annual European employer survey.

Some 30% of employers are demanding staff work fully in-person, while 27% have introduced hybrid schemes that expect employees to work more days in the office than at home, the data showed. As many as 73% of organisations that don’t already require workers to be in the office full-time are considering reducing the amount of days employees can work remotely.

However, a tight labour market is also forcing a majority of firms (79%) to increase flexible or remote working options to attract and retain talent, underscoring the conflict employers face as labour markets adjust to the post-pandemic environment.

Stephan Swinkels, Littler’s international co-ordinating partner, said: “It’s clear that those who got a taste of remote work are reluctant to give it up. This means employers must factor flexibility into their recruitment and retention strategies, and that if they’re going to push for more in-person work, they must do so with intention.”

Despite those tensions, the survey showed there was greater harmony between employer policies and employee preferences this year, with 40% saying their work models match employee expectations compared to just 28% last year.

Jan-Ove Becker, a Littler shareholder in the firm’s Hamburg office, said: “It’s encouraging that employers and employees are more aligned on work preferences than they were at this time last year. However, the fact that companies are still struggling to balance the pros and cons of remote, hybrid and in-person work models – even two and a half years into this new world of work – is telling of the complex and delicate challenges that come with managing a workforce today.”

The tight labour market is also prompting an increasing number of employers to use technology and artificial intelligence tools as part of the recruitment process. Almost half of respondents (47%) said they already use or are planning to use such tools, while 61% of those already using these tools said they had increased their reliance on them over the past year.

Laura Jousselin, a Littler partner in the firm’s Paris office, said: “As usage of these tools ramps up, it’s important for legal departments to raise awareness of the compliance steps that must be taken and ensure applications are developed under legal review.”

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