Richard Litchfield Innovate Freight Talent

East Midlands based specialist recruiter weighs in on employers enforcing full-time office return for staff

A specialist Grantham-based recruiter has stated its belief that employers should think twice before ordering employees back to the office on a full-time basis, with more businesses making the move.

In 2023, approximately 92 per cent of companies in the UK had moved away from fully remote working and instead adopted a mandatory in-office policy.[1]

But some businesses have now scrapped hybrid working policies altogether. Major retailer Boots recently announced it would be enforcing staff to return to its head office in Nottingham, where 8,000 people are employed, on a full-time basis by September 2024.

In addition, leading contractor Laing O’Rourke also ordered its staff back to their desks at the start of 2024, noting that its workplaces were, “too often sparsely populated”.

For Innovate Freight Talent’s owner, Richard Litchfield, it is a clear choice for businesses to make: “The pandemic showed both employers and staff that hybrid working was a possibility across several industries.

“It not only makes financial sense for businesses, saving on the overhead costs of running an office, but it also reduces the need for employees to spend hours commuting to work each day, and gives a much-needed work-life balance.

“But we’re now seeing a lot of organisations decide to bring everyone back full-time into the office. We would advise firms to consider this policy, before committing to it, as it could almost certainly put off candidates on applying for positions with them. The individuals we speak to daily, value a role that allows them to flourish, no matter whether they are working from home or in the office.”

These announcements may well be a sign of things to come, though. A recent survey conducted by KPMG found that 63 per cent of CEOs in the UK predicted a full return to in-office working by 2026.[2]

Richard added: “The power of coming to work together in the office is great and lots can be achieved when working more closely with colleagues. However, it is very true that the hybrid approach, is the best approach, especially for companies who are looking to accrue the best possible talent.

“By enforcing regimented office policies, I feel as though companies will be losing the top talent, that desires such a style of work. Personally, I became a business owner, as I wanted hybrid working in my own life, so I can fully appreciate the need to listen to employees and give them what they want.

“Some roles do need to be site based, but we have seen for ourselves that those in more senior positions are dictating the type of working routine they require.

“Ultimately, if we were working with these companies that are telling staff to return on a full-time basis to the office, we would tell them to ask their employees what they want. This is to avoid an entirely disgruntled workforce, which may lead to mass departures, and a struggle to recruit to replace or expand staffing numbers.

[1] ITBrief Great Office Return sees 92% of firms initiate mandatory in-office policy (