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Nearly 9 in 10 Aussie employers have now mandated office days

Workplaces are putting their foot down. Despite facing staff resignations, most Australian employers have introduced policies that mandate the number of days employees must spend in the office.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 17 August 2023 Big Law
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Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on Lawyers Weekly’s sister brand, HR Leader.

New research from Robert Half reveals 87 per cent of employers have implemented mandatory office days.

The move has been predicted since the start of this year, with research in February noting that 59 per cent of employers were considering rolling out such policies over the coming months.

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Nonetheless, to see it eventuate has been somewhat surprising, given the employee backlash. Recently, 49,000 Commonwealth Bank employees took their grievances with mandated office hours to the Finance Sector Union.

Breaking down the mandates

According to the latest research, of those who have mandated office days, 19 per cent are getting staff to come back the full five days.

The most popular mandate was four days in office per week (28 per cent), followed by three days (26 per cent).

Meanwhile, 12 per cent have mandated two days a week, and 2 per cent have mandated one day.

As for why employers are setting strict mandates, 40 per cent said it is better to have important meetings face to face, and 37 per cent cited improvements to productivity levels when staff are in the office.

A further 34 per cent of employers said they’re setting a mandate because they find it hard to maintain corporate culture without one, 31 per cent said they need to make use of office space, 30 per cent said it’s more difficult to manage teams virtually, and 25 per cent cited limited career progression opportunities for junior employees.

Employers also acknowledged some of the consequences they’re seeing in response to mandating office days.

Thirty-one per cent said they’ve already lost at least one employee due to mandated office days, while 40 per cent expect staff to leave in the coming months.

“Australian employer sentiments relating to working from home have shifted in the last six months. Businesses have put their foot down and allocated in-office days for their staff,” said Nicole Gorton, director at Robert Half.

“While the benefits of bringing people back are extensive, careful consideration needs to be taken when making changes to something of utmost significance to the staff, especially if a business’s work/life harmony benefits are what got candidates through the door.

“Mandating makes people feel like they have been stripped of this choice. To manage this in a way that makes employees still feel looked after, employers could adapt a flexible approach and let staff pick which three or four days will fit their schedule the best to come into the office.”

Going forward, Ms Gorton urged employers to think carefully about such policies as they could risk losing vital staff.

“Flexibility and choice is not only valued by many professionals but is now non-negotiable for those who relished the arrangement over the past three years,” she said.

“A hybrid workforce has its challenges, and while employers require more people to return to the office, companies should not pull back on remote work policies altogether.

“When employers pay attention to both the employee and the business’s needs, embrace the options, and conduct extensive planning, they can get the mix right and reap the rewards of an engaged and productive team. Otherwise, employers risk losing good staff.”

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy is the editor of Lawyers Weekly. A former lawyer, he has worked at Momentum Media as a journalist on Lawyers Weekly since February 2018, and has served as editor since March 2022. He is also the host of all five shows under The Lawyers Weekly Podcast Network, and has overseen the brand's audio medium growth from 4,000 downloads per month to over 60,000 downloads per month, making The Lawyers Weekly Show the most popular industry-specific podcast in Australia. Jerome is also the author of The Wellness Doctrines book series, an admitted solicitor in NSW, and a board director of Minds Count.

You can email Jerome at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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