Employees want to work from home for three days a week but employers would prefer two, according to a new report.
survey by a national organisation for recruiters also reveals that job seekers rate flexible working more highly than bonuses.
The report says the majority of candidates give flexible working equal importance to the salary on offer.
As thousands of people return to the office from today under a phased plan, president of the National Recruitment Federation, Donal O’Donoghue, said the flexibility we have become accustomed to is not something candidates want to let go of.
He said the Irish workforce has managed extremely well in the remote working world of the last 18 months.
“Employers around the country are gearing up to manage the return of their employees to on-site working and, while health and safety has to be their top priority right now, how they respond to employees’ flexible working preferences needs to be high on their agenda,” he said.
“Our advice to employers would be to take heed here and build flexibility carefully into any talent attraction and retention strategy going forward.”
A total of 57pc of recruiters said job applicants want to work from home for three days a week. Some 39pc said they wanted to work two days a week from home, while less than 5pc wanted to work one day a week remotely.
This contrasted with most employers who favoured two days per week working from home. Almost 30pc preferred three days, and just under 18pc favoured one day a week.
Recruiters said the biggest flexible working concern for employers was creating a sense of belonging and culture, followed by productivity, trust, cyber security, data protection, and health and safety.
Of 114 recruiters surveyed this month, slightly more than half said candidates view flexible working as being more important than bonuses when considering new roles.
Some 41pc saw it as less important. The rest felt they had equal importance.
A total of 65pc of recruiters said candidates see flexible working as a necessity when applying for new roles, while 35pc saw it as a perk.
Some 67pc said candidates gave salary and flexible working similar importance, while 21pc saw flexibility as more important than salary. Just 13pc saw it as less important.
“What we’re hearing from candidates is this resounding message: ‘we’re not going back’,” said Geraldine King, CEO of the National Recruitment Federation.
She said for most people, returning to the pre-Covid way of working in the office full-time is not an option.
“At the same time, employers are grappling with how best to manage flexible working in the future,” she said.
“How might it impact productivity over the longer term? What are the potential security and health-and-safety risks, and how can they maintain a healthy, cohesive culture?”
Mr O’Donoghue said the labour market is buoyant, with skill shortages in areas, and if employers are too rigid in trying to get people back to the office they risk “high attrition”.
“There has been an enormous pendulum swing, from an employer to a candidate-driven market,” he said.
“Flexibility will play a very important role in helping employers attract and retain the most talented and sought-after candidates in the future.”