Employers in Northern Ireland are looking to prioritize talent retention while also increasing the amount of time their staff spends in the office, according to John Moore, the managing director of Hays in NI. Moore states that nearly a third of employers in the region plan to modify their hybrid working arrangements this year and will be requesting employees to come into the office more frequently. A recent survey conducted by Hays, called the What Workers Want survey, revealed that 69% of employers in Northern Ireland currently offer hybrid working to their staff. Out of those surveyed, 28% expect their hybrid offering to change this year, with 12% already providing incentives to encourage employees to return to the office and an additional 13% considering doing so.
Moore explains that while certain industries require employees to be physically present in the workplace every day, there has been a cultural shift towards remote and hybrid working patterns for those in office-based roles that solely require access to a computer and the internet. Many employers have adapted to this shift and have accepted that hybrid working will be their long-term model. However, some employers now feel the need for more in-person collaboration and are offering incentives to encourage employees to come into the office. Moore emphasizes that each employer must find what works best for them, but in a tight labor market, it is crucial for them to determine what prospective employees want in order to attract and retain talent.
The survey also revealed that 54% of professionals in Northern Ireland prefer hybrid working, while 26% prefer working solely in the office, and only 20% have a preference for fully remote working. Additionally, 43% of local employers offer flexible working to all staff, while 53% assess each role individually when deciding whether to provide flexible working options.
As part of the survey, employers listed the incentives they are offering to encourage employees to spend more time in the office. The most popular incentives include access to better hardware/software (50%), bike storage and showers (50%), an onsite café with free drinks (42%), paid or subsidized access to gym facilities (33%), social events (33%), and paid or subsidized travel (25%). Subsidized lunches (45%), an onsite café (42%), subsidized travel (42%), and access to gym facilities (38%) were the most popular incentives among staff.
Despite some employers’ efforts to attract employees back to the workplace, 44% of those surveyed expect the proportion of fully remote employees to increase in the next 12 months, compared to 22% who anticipate a decrease and 33% who believe the numbers will remain the same. Transparency about an organization’s approach to flexible working was deemed very or quite important to attracting staff by 82% of the employers surveyed, while 94% of staff viewed it as very or quite important. Among the employees surveyed, 72% stated that the use of hybrid or remote working is included in their contracts.
The survey also highlighted that employers continue to implement measures to improve employee well-being in order to retain and attract talent. Hays found that 16% of organizations have implemented no meetings during lunch or certain hours of the day, 15% have set a limit on the duration of meetings, and 9% have designated meeting-free days. Although 71% of employers have not placed any restrictions on meetings, over half (54%) of professionals stated that they would find it useful if their employer encouraged no meetings during lunch or at a specific time, 41% believed it would be beneficial to have a mandated limit on meeting length, and 34% expressed the importance of having meeting-free days.