Australian workers choose flexible working patterns over higher salaries

Photo by Max Ravier

A survey revealed that 47% of professionals in Australia would skip a pay rise if it meant they received the flexible work patterns they desire. 56% of workers prefer to be in the office one or two days a week, yet almost two thirds of organisations are asking staff to be in the office more regularly compared to this time last year.

The research, conducted by global talent services company Morgan McKinley as part of its 2024 Salary Guide, also found that 62% of organisations in Australia have found hiring ‘very’ or ‘quite’ competitive in 2023.

‘No sign-off for new headcount’, ‘lack of skilled candidates available’, and ‘no budget to hire’ are the most frequent recruitment challenges Australian employers expect to face in 2024. Only 20% of organisations plan to hire new employees in the next six months.

As for jobseekers, 46% of professionals in Australia plan on actively looking for a new job in the next six months – down from 59% when the same question was asked at the end of 2022.

Flexibility in working patterns continues to be hugely important, with ‘work from home’, ‘flexible working hours’, and ‘work remotely overseas for an extended period’ making up three of the top five benefits for Australian employees – ‘bonus’ and ‘health and wellbeing support’ were the others.

Contracting appears to be more attractive for many, as 65% of professionals currently employed in permanent roles would consider making the switch to contracting, with the main reasons given being ‘better rates of pay’, ‘greater opportunities to develop skills’, and ‘more flexibility’.

Over half (52%) of Australian professionals are optimistic that they will receive a salary increase in 2024, and 60% of employers plan to increase salary offers in 2024 for certain in-demand roles.

Dominic Bareham, Managing Director of Morgan McKinley Australia, commented: “In 2023, businesses scaled back hiring and looked to limit costs in anticipation of continued challenges – despite strong profit announcements for many.”

“Unemployment numbers remain at a record low, however, the market has experienced an influx of people looking for roles. With more choice of talent, companies are able to dictate terms more, meaning salary expectations have levelled. The influx has also posed problems, making it overwhelming for hiring managers to identify the niche skills they need.”

Bareham concluded: “The outlook for 2024 is cautious and will hinge on numerous factors – with less hiring, smaller teams and increased workloads, flight risks of your top performers is a real possibility.”

“Many organisations have ambitious transformation agendas that require specialist skills and experience, so they will work hard to retain their more experienced and well-networked staff to help navigate this time. Offering meaningful benefits, with a clear focus on flexibility, will play a key role. If additional skills are required, hiring contractors or consultants will allow organisations to proceed with programmes without the headcount commitments.”