• 59% of Australian employers require staff to increase the number of days they are in the office in 2023 compared with 2022.
  • Employers in NSW (63%) are most likely to want staff back in the office on more days this year.
  • Employers believe staff will benefit from enhanced corporate culture (70%), skills development and career progression (68%) and productivity (66%) by being in the office on more days of the week.
  • 50% of employers believe return-to-office policies will not have a positive effect on staff retention and 51% believe candidate attraction will not be positively affected.

Sydney, 15 February 2023 – New independent research by specialised recruiter Robert Half finds almost six in 10 (59%) Australian employers require their staff to increase the number of days they work in the office this year compared with 2022, as the Australian workforce bounces back from the pandemic. At the same time, 32% of employers are happy with the time their employees currently spend in the office and do not have plans to require them to be present more often. Almost one in ten (9%) of employers are unsure as to how their return-to-office policy will evolve.

Medium-sized businesses and NSW employers push hardest for return to office

Medium-sized businesses are strongly requiring staff to increase the days spent in the office, with almost three-quarters (73%) wanting staffing to return to the office more frequently, compared to less than half (47%) of small businesses and 58% of large businesses.

Employers in New South Wales are leading the charge with 63% stating they require staff to increase the number of days they spend in the office this year. Queensland employers are the happiest with the status quo, with 35% not intending to increase the time staff spend in the office this year.

Victorian employers, who endured the longest stay-at-home orders of any Australian state during the pandemic, are the most unsure of their plans for 2023, with 13% of employers still deciding on what they require of their staff this year.

Overall, Western Australian employers are the most cautious when forcing employees back to the office, with just over half (55%) requiring staff to increase their office time, 33% not intending to do so, and 12% being unsure. This conservative approach is likely to be a result of staff already spending more days in the office than their counterparts in the eastern states, as they were less affected by COVID-19 lockdowns.

Australian business leaders were asked: “Looking at 2023, does your company plan to require staff to increase the days they spend in the office compared with 2022?”

 New South WalesQueenslandWestern AustraliaVictoria

Independent survey commissioned by Robert Half among 300 business leaders in Australia.

Returning to the office expected to have a positive impact, yet not in all areas

Employers believe that having their employees back into the office will have a positive impact on staff as well as the business in a number of ways. Having workers increase the number of days they are in the office is seen to most benefit corporate culture according to 70% of Australian employers while 68% of employers believe their employees’ skills development and career progression opportunities will improve. Productivity (66%), employee wellbeing (61%) and employee motivation (60%) are other positive impacts as identified by Australian companies.

With flexibility, working from home and hybrid working being in very high demand, often even an expectation among workers, candidate attraction and employee retention are expected to be less positively affected, which is also reflected in candidate sentiments. As professionals in today’s market are less enticed to join or stay at a company that requires them in the office full-time, at 51% and 50% respectively, about half of Australian employers acknowledge that requiring workers to be in the office more often will not have a positive effect on their attraction and retention strategy.

“The pandemic forced employers’ hand in allowing remote work options for their employees. Now that restrictions have been fully lifted and the workforce is bouncing back and re-establishing their ‘normality’, employers are rethinking how often employees should be working from home and how many in-office days should be required,” said Nicole Gorton, Director at Robert Half.

“If companies do decide to make their employees return to the office more often than they did in 2022, they need to make going into the office worthwhile. This can be done by utilising community days, which sees teams go in at the same time to allow collaboration and socialising. Other strategies like offering team lunches or workshops are more targeted reasons as to why people would want to attend the office.”

“As organisations continue to learn and evaluate how working from the office and working from home can affect attraction and retention, it has become apparent that a more efficient balance must be achieved. Flexibility will continue to be highly valued by employees, but different and sometimes more tailored approaches to the hybrid model could be a solid strategy for protecting workplaces from the drawbacks of remote working while still allowing employees to reap the many benefits of greater workplace flexibility. If companies fail to have such a balance, employers run the risk of losing staff and struggling to secure new candidates at a time when a tight labour market continues,” concluded Gorton.

Robert Half - return to office - Feb 2023.pdf


Notes to editors

About the research

The study is developed by Robert Half and was conducted online in November 2022 by an independent research company, surveying 300 hiring managers, including 100 CFOs and 100 CIOs, from companies across Australia. This survey is part of the international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management, and trends in the workplace.

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