Office, hybrid or home? Businesses Reflect on the Future of Work

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Office, hybrid or home? Businesses Reflect on the Future of Work


TThe government could announce the end of its home orientation work in England next month, leaving companies with three big choices: get everyone back to the office; introduce a flexible working regime; or allow people to work from their home office, kitchen table or garden shed all the time.

Here we take a look at the pros and cons of each option.

1. Back to office

The big investment banks have taken some of the toughest positions on plans to return to the office, meaning staff will soon have to resume their daily commute to London.

Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon dashed bankers’ hopes of dividing their time between home and office in February when he called telecommuting an “aberration” that needed to be corrected “asap”.

Morgan Stanley chief executive James Gorman told his New York bankers this week that anyone who feels safe dining out should return to the office.

Gorman said the bank would take a different approach in countries such as the UK, where less than 25% of its 5,000 London employees go to work in person, due to tighter Covid restrictions, but insisted on the fact that offices were the places where bankers learned their trade. “This is where you build all of the soft signals that come with a successful career that isn’t limited to Zoom presentations,” he said.

Goldman’s US staff returned to their offices on Monday and its 6,000 UK bankers are expected to return to the offices of Plumtree Court in London as soon as the home government work is lifted, potentially on July 19.

About 30% of Goldman’s UK staff visit the London office regularly and are tested twice a week by on-site medical staff as part of security measures. Although he has not asked UK staff to disclose his vaccination status, as his US counterparts have been asked, an anonymous survey found that “the majority” of its London workforce will have received at least one vaccine from here next week.

Solomon is said to be concerned that staff abused work-from-home privileges, citing an incident last year when a junior employee approached him in the middle of the workday while dining in the Hamptons – 80 miles from New York. The chief executive said he was particularly concerned about how to train the next generation of bankers if most of the employees work from home.

JP Morgan chief executive Jamie Dimon also raised concerns about the lack of mentorship for young employees and a slight drop in productivity on Mondays and Fridays. Likewise, Barclays boss Jes Staley lamented the challenges faced by young graduates and new hires, who needed to immerse themselves in the “culture and values” of the bank by meeting colleagues face to face. .

2. Hybrid operation

For the majority of large companies, the future is hybrid. Some of the UK’s biggest office occupants, from the Big Four accounting firms to big tech companies, all intend to allow more flexible working after the pandemic, with staff dividing their time between their offices and a remote location.

Homework is increasingly in demand as a permanent arrangement by staff, especially young workers. But business leaders are also aware of the bank chiefs’ argument: the value of bringing teams together in a common workplace to foster collaboration and corporate culture, while helping to train young employees. and newcomers, who may not have the luxury of a home workspace.

As a result, many companies have opted for the compromise of hybrid work.

Accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has announced a flexible working policy for its 22,000 UK employees, allowing them to split the week between home and office, which Chairman Kevin Ellis said was a “direct response to our polls. staff “. The company expects workers to spend 40-60% of their time with co-workers, whether in PwC offices or on customer visits, and with the freedom to work remotely the rest of the day. the week.

Despite Goldman’s tough stance, some City businesses have also gone hybrid. FTSE-listed fund manager Schroders is among those who have told staff they will not be required to return to the office full-time.

Consumer goods group Unilever, owner of brands such as Dove soap, Marmite ice cream and Ben & Jerry’s, said staff would never revert to a five-day-a-week office model. Its chief executive, Alan Jope, called the previous approach “very old fashioned”.

Even tech companies, which should be at the forefront of video conferencing, favor a 50/50 approach. Google chief executive Sundar Pichai announced a hybrid policy in May, with staff spending about three days in the office “and two days where they work best,” similar to the approach taken by Amazon. However, he added that once the pandemic is over “we can meet in our offices to see all the people we missed”.

More than two-thirds (66%) of companies continue to offer remote work, according to a survey of British Chambers of Commerce. The survey of over 900 companies showed that nearly three-quarters of companies expected at least one team member to continue working remotely in the coming year. However, the ability of companies to offer flexible working varies widely by industry, and is much more prevalent in service companies such as financial or legal firms, and much less straightforward to implement in hospitality, retail retail or manufacturing.

Some companies took the opportunity to say goodbye to the office. Photograph: Joe Giddens / PA

3. Permanent teleworking

During the pandemic, some businesses took the opportunity to say goodbye to the office for good, reducing rental costs. Bosses sent laptops and monitors, and in some cases desks and office chairs, to their employees, outfitting them to work from home in earnest.

Outsourcing firm Capita announced last year that the majority of its 900 new hires, hired to handle London’s congestion charge and low-emission zones for its contracts with Transport for London (TfL), would be allowed to work remotely and encouraged to do so. of the House. Capita has also extended its office closure plans as part of a cost reduction policy, with the goal of permanently closing a quarter of its offices by the end of 2021.

Yet only 4% of businesses across industries intend to have their staff work exclusively from home, excluding large meetings and days off, according to a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses.

“Small businesses tend to be more flexible and adaptive than large businesses by nature, allowing teams to come up with arrangements that work for everyone,” said FSB National President Mike Cherry.

Some large companies have also decided to embrace permanent telecommuting, and not just as a way to cut costs.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told workers earlier in June that all full-time employees would be allowed to work remotely if their jobs allowed them, which he intends to do himself. 50% of the time.

“We have learned over the past year that good work can be done anywhere, and I am even more optimistic that large-scale remote work is possible,” he wrote in a note from service.

About one in three Natwest Group employees, representing more than 20,000 workers, will become largely remote workers, able to live and work anywhere in the UK and not have to travel to their desks in person only two days a month.

The number of advertised remote workstations in the UK has grown steadily over the past year, reaching around 145,000 jobs in May, equivalent to around 5% of advertised jobs. That means the number of advertised remote jobs has more than tripled from last August and has increased sixfold since February 2020, according to labor market data company Emsi.

However, talent consultants warn that working from home is not for all employees, with some struggling to stay productive and motivated.

Few workers want to give up visiting their workplace, said Natalie Douglass, director of talent strategy consulting at New Street Consulting Group.

“What a lot of workers have discovered over the past year is that having the option to work remotely can be a good thing, but not having the option of going to the office at all can make the job much harder, ”said Douglass.

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