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HR experts: Companies requiring in-office work could lose out on 70% of candidates—employees are 'calling the shots'

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Throughout the recovering job market of 2021, workers have been driving record quitting rates as they find new jobs with better pay, perks and flexibility, particularly the option to work remotely as it's become more widespread during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, as the labor economy touts nearly 11 million job openings and not enough people to fill them, HR experts say businesses that don't offer any kind of flexible-work options are losing out on up to 70% of job-seekers.

"Right now, if you're not offering flexible or remote program, you're missing out on 50% to 70% of candidates," says Rey Ramirez, cofounder of Thrive HR Consulting, which advises companies across tech, construction, financial services and more on how to set up and manage hybrid teams. Along with cofounder Jason Walker, the consultants have spent 2021 advising clients on how to be competitive in the hiring market, particularly when it comes to supporting and paying remote workers.

Ramirez tells CNBC Make It the vast majority of job-seekers he's interacted with recently won't even consider a role if it doesn't accommodate any kind of remote-work flexibility.

"They're saying it's not an option," says Ramirez, adding that he's seeing people turn down job offers on a daily basis if they lack flexible-work accommodations.

Tens of millions of Americans quit their jobs this year, with some estimates going as high as 1 in 4 workers who've left voluntarily since January. One PwC survey found 65% of workers were looking for a new job as of August, with their top reasons including negotiating for a better salary, accessing new benefits and having more workplace flexibility, such as the ability to work remotely full-time or on a hybrid schedule.

Companies trying to keep pace with rebounding consumer demand want to hire A-level talent, Walker says, and those top-tier, in-demand workers know they have their pick of working for an employer that will allow flexibility, whether that means working on a hybrid or fully-remote schedule, or relocating without facing a pay cut. As a result, Walker says as many as 75% of employers are having to rework their pay and benefits structure in order to retain and attract people.

"Employees are really calling the shots of what they will and won't accept," he says.

One EY survey of 1,000 global business leaders indicates organizations are attuned to the fact that 90% of workers want more flexibility in when and where they work, but they're not being clear or fast enough in letting workers know their future plans. While 79% of companies said they intend to make "moderate to extensive hybrid work changes," just 40% have actually communicated those plans to their workforce.

Further, the survey finds 35% of employers want all of their employees to return to the office full-time after the pandemic.

"We know that many employees are prepared to quit if they don't get the flexibility they need and so employers who fail to move with the times do risk losing their people," said Liz Fealy, EY global people advisory services deputy leader and workforce advisory leader, in a statement. "Organizations that want to flourish need to ensure that their plans are well defined and communicated, and that they balance business and employee priorities in refining these plans to help create a win-win for the business and the workforce."

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