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Major work from home shift for Aussie workers: ‘Not everyone pleased’

Employers are taking advantage of the current jobs market to get staff back into the office.

WFH and workers
Return to the office is well and truly back, with the number of workers coming in five days a week doubling. (Source: Getty)

Work from home (WFH) is well and truly over for many Aussie employees. The number of workers required to work from the office full-time has doubled over the last 12 months.

About two in five Aussie employees are now expected to head into the office five days per week, new research from Robert Half found. That’s a massive jump from the one in five recorded last year.

The vast majority of Aussie companies (86 per cent) require staff to come into the office at least once a week, with five days the most common arrangement, followed by three days a week (17 per cent) and four days (12 per cent).

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Robert Half director Andrew Brushfield said employers were taking advantage of the tight labour market and a lack of “candidate leverage” to get staff back to the office.

"The pendulum is swinging back to pre-pandemic levels where working from home was an anomaly rather than an expectation,” Brushfield said.

“In the current workplace landscape where flexibility is the new high-level currency for many employees, not everyone is pleased with this change of direction away from remote and hybrid work.”

A Yahoo Finance poll of more than 2,600 readers found workers were divided over the need to return to the office.

About 56 per cent thought employees should just suck it up if their boss said so, while 44 per cent thought they should be able to work from home if their job allowed it.

The bad news for WFH lovers is your boss can legally force you back into the office.

McCabes Lawyers principal Tim McDonald told Yahoo Finance there are only very limited circumstances where you can refuse. Plus, there’s a risk you could get fired for not fronting up.

An Australian father's challenge against his boss's request to return to the office was thrown out by the Fair Work Commission

An Adelaide father had his challenge to remain working from home by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) rejected in November last year over productivity concerns.

Major Aussie companies have now threatened to punish staff who don’t come into the office as required.

ANZ staff were told their office attendance would be linked to annual salary reviews and bonuses, while Origin and Suncorp staff also risk getting their bonuses cut if they don't come into the office as required.

These kinds of arrangements could become more common, with a Herbert Smith Freehills survey finding 37 per cent of Aussie employees planned to differentiate pay between remote and in-office staff in the next three to five years.

Other companies like Soulidify and Career365 are letting employees work from home as they like but have warned workers they could be subjected to screen monitoring if their productivity drops.

Brushfield said mandated office days could be a “double-edged sword” for staff.

“While they foster collaboration and connection, they can also lead to resentment and disengagement if not implemented and justified thoughtfully,” he said.

While the majority of Aussie workers (79 per cent) reported being satisfied with their current working arrangement, the more they went into the office, the less happy they were.

Workers going into the office four or five days a week were found to be the most unsatisfied, with 23 per cent saying they were unhappy with their office mandate.

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