Lack of workplace flexibility will prompt a third of employees to ‘vote with their feet’ and swap jobs


Findings from Barnett Waddingham’s brand-new survey today reveal that employees expect the freedom to work how they want after the pandemic, and would consider leaving their jobs if it’s not permitted.

A third (33%) of UK employees would be prompted to look for a new job if their organisation won’t allow the working environment that they want. Over the year since the pandemic started, flexible and hybrid working has become increasingly important for employee satisfaction and retention.

Of this group, 23% would bring it up with senior leadership, and if nothing changed, would look for a new job or plan to leave their organisation. 11% would immediately look for a new job or plan to leave if they weren’t allowed to work how they wanted.

Hybrid working leads the way

When asked how they would prefer to work once all lockdown restrictions have lifted in the UK, just a fifth (20%) of employees said they are keen to work mainly in an office in the future. The most popular working environment that people want post-pandemic is to be mostly at home, but sometimes in the office, at a quarter (24%) of UK employees.

Full-time employees who have been working at home throughout the pandemic are by far the keenest to remain mainly home-working, but sometimes work at an office – with almost half (47%) saying that it’s their preference.

Just over a tenth (12%) of employees would prefer to work only at home, while a tenth (10%) would opt to be only in the office, showing that employees are overwhelmingly in support of a hybrid working environment post-pandemic.

  Individuals at firms with this number of employees
Action people would take if employers don’t allow them to work in their desired way All 1 – 9 employees 10-49 employees 50 – 200 employees 201 – 1,000 employees 1,001 – 4,999 employees 5,000+ employees
I would take no action 32% 37% 25% 27% 26% 35% 43%
I would bring it up with senior leadership, but if nothing changed I would take no action 33% 35% 35% 38% 35% 35% 26%
I would bring it up with senior leadership, and if nothing changed I would look for a new job/ plan to leave the organisation 23% 18% 26% 24% 26% 18% 19%
I would look for a new job/ plan to leave the organisation 11% 9% 13% 10% 13% 11% 9%
Other 1% 1% 2% 1% 1% 1% 2%

Taking action against inflexible employers

When it comes to challenging employers that aren’t supportive of flexibility, employees at smaller companies are much more likely to feel confident in doing so. Three quarters (75%) of employees at companies with 10-49 staff would take some sort of action, be it bringing it up with senior leadership, or hunting for a new job, compared to just over a half (57%) of employees at companies with more than 5,000 staff.

Younger workers are also far more likely to feel confident challenging their employer or taking matters into their own hands, at three quarters (74%) of 18-24-year-olds compared to 57% of 46-64-year-olds.

But it’s also younger workers who are the keenest to get back to an office full-time, with well over a quarter (28%) saying that their preference post-lockdown is to work mainly in an office.

For a quarter (25%) of UK employees, the nature of their job means that they can only work in certain places – like doctors, vets, and construction workers – and so are accepting that flexible working is not a feasible option for them in the future.

David Collington, Associate & Head of Benefit Consulting at Barnett Waddingham, commented: “The flexible working boom and the future of hybrid environments is not a new conversation – since the pandemic, it’s been a hot topic for businesses embracing change and agility across the UK. However, the risks of not adopting flexibility for the retention of staff are starting to rise to the surface as we begin to move out of lockdown for good. Employee sentiment is crystal clear; adopt hybrid working for the future, or people will happily move somewhere where they can work how they like.

“Employers now need to focus on gauging the views and preferences of their workforce. It’s no use adopting a blanket ‘back to the office’ or ‘only work at home’ policy. Businesses risk their employees feeling dissatisfied and disillusioned with their company, and in today’s competitive job market, the cost of this decision in recruitment and retention terms far outweighs the cost of a nuanced and flexible policy.”