Tracking recent developments in remote working
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NEW UK Sunday Times: Who will win the great WFH tug of war?
Date: June 20, 2021
Deloitte is letting 20,000 staff decide how they work. Morgan Stanley is ordering bankers back to offices. Will Serle used to commute weekly from his home in Scotland to the head office of Capita in London. Covid-19 changed all that. Like everyone else, Serle was confined to his house when Boris Johnson issued his first work-from-home instruction — but even when restrictions ease, the chief people officer of the FTSE 250 outsourcer will keep using his home as his main base.
He is one of 35,000 Capita staff who now have the option of working from home some of the time, even after the crisis ends. “It was about listening to colleagues … [on] the changes we wanted to make on a permanent basis,” said Serle, 51.
NEW UK Guardian: Switch to more home working after Covid ‘will make gender inequality worse’
Date: June 19, 2021
The permanent switch to more home working following the pandemic will cause rising gender inequality in the workplace, according to experts, unless employers carefully monitor their new working policies to make sure women aren’t disadvantaged. Traditionally, more women than men – particularly those with children or caring responsibilities – have requested flexible working. The switch to working from home necessitated by coronavirus lockdowns has, 15 months on, resulted in a permanent change in corporate culture, to the extent that the government is considering legislating to make home working the “default” option.
NEW Financial Times Editorial: Bosses should persuade staff back to the office
Date: June 19, 2021
Financial Times Editorial: Good arguments beat coercion to wean employees off remote working
Legions of Goldman Sachs bankers returned to its Manhattan headquarters this week, as the first of the big banks called back staff from remote working. They must disclose whether they have been vaccinated. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley’s boss mused that if his underlings are happy to eat at restaurants, they should be happy to come into the office. That may be right but Wall Street titans would be better advised to make the case persuasively rather than by taking a hard line. There are strong arguments to deploy.
For businesses, the advantages are manifold, not least cutting the expense of redundant real estate. Operational risk is reduced if staff are on-site. While the relative productivity of remote working versus the office is still being debated, there are potential competitive advantages — a banker pitching for business in person may trump a rival on a screen. For employees too, there are pluses. One is the boost for new starters, particularly trainees, who learn from observation. There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction — for understanding how to complete tasks but also for absorbing a company’s way of doing things. The longer working remotely continues, the harder it is to transmit office culture.
Office camaraderie is also important. Loneliness has become an acute problem, not to mention the burnout many have suffered as remote working has fostered an “always on” mentality.
In recent history, calamities such as war or a pandemic have catalysed change in labour practices. It would be rash to pretend the past 15 months did not exist. Most employers will choose a middle ground, cherry-picking positive parts of remote working while underscoring the importance of frequent office attendance. Even Goldman is granting some discretion on flexible working.
Société Générale, which reopened its Paris office this week, will allow bankers to work from home three days a week; HSBC is yet to set an office-return date and is planning on extended flexible working. These differing approaches, while dictated also by cultural mores, domestic employment law and vaccination rates, show that even among the same sector there is disagreement about the right level of office attendance.
Initially, at least, blended working will be much more difficult to manage than a fiat demanding total attendance, or that everyone stay at home. Requiring vaccination disclosure as Goldman has is particularly thorny. One fear is that leaving staff to choose their own working arrangements will lead to divisions, as ambitious employees want facetime with bosses and frequent the office to maximise networking opportunities. Cliques have always existed in office life but managers will have a responsibility to ensure that status is not equated with hours put in at the office.
US investment banks are not known for their softly-softly approach. But even if they are correct in their thinking, the delivery of their message seems jarring. Workers are demanding a more conciliatory approach: Bill Michael quit as KPMG UK’s chair in February following a backlash over his telling staff to “stop moaning” over working conditions. A better approach is to understand that personal circumstances differ wildly, as will the ability and desire to return to office life.
Buoyed by a pandemic trading boom, banks can get away with swagger — for now. But in a tight labour market, where they are vying for the very best talent, notably with highly flexible tech groups, a tin-eared approach risks becoming a competitive disadvantage. Persuasion beats coercion.
NEW From The Economist: How to pick the best days to work from home
Date: June 19, 2021
Bartleby in the Economist: Hybrid working may be the future but that raises the question of how it will actually be organised. Will companies let their employees choose which days they come in to the office, and which days they are at home? And what about working hours? If employees do get a choice, they clearly need a strategy to maximise their visibility and minimise the stress. So this columnist has a few tips about which days you should opt to work from home.
Monday: Too obvious. You might as well say, “I’ve been drinking all weekend and I’m too hung over to come in.” In the 18th and early 19th centuries, when people were paid on Saturdays, absenteeism on the first official day of the working week was so common it was known as “Saint Monday”, because it felt almost like a second sabbath.
NEW UK Telegraph: Deloitte tells staff they can work from home forever
Date: June 18, 2021
Deloitte’s 20,000 UK staff can work wherever they want when Covid restrictions are lifted, the firm’s chief executive Richard Houston told staff on Friday. Employees will not be mandated to be in the office for a set number of days or in specific locations. “That means that our people can choose how often they come to the office, if they choose to do so at all, while focusing on how we can best serve our clients,” Houston said. He added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to embrace the benefits from the last 16 months of being able to spend more time at home, while our people can be flexible in the way they work and reconnect with their colleagues and the office as needed.” The firm’s move goes further than its Big Four rivals KPMG, EY and PwC, which have all said employees will be required to go into the office at least two to three days a week. Deloitte is also considering whether staff could work abroad for a period in the future, the Telegraph reports.
NEW From the Daily Mail (UK): Switch to working from home could cost the Treasury £32BN a year as high earners move abroad, study shows.
Date: June 18, 2021
Highly-paid workers who live abroad won’t pay income tax to the UK Treasury – It may reduce the public purse by a sixth adding to the UK’s economic crisis – New staff mobility since the pandemic also affects where corporate income
The UK Treasury could lose £32billion a year due to high-earners moving abroad as people begin to shift from working at the office to working from home, a study claims. Highly-paid workers who live abroad will pay their income tax in their country of residence rather than to HMRC. It may reduce the public purse by a sixth, adding to the economic crisis facing the UK, legal experts warn.
NEW From the Guardian (UK): Workers must be given right to do jobs from home, says Labour
Date: June 18, 2021
From the UK Guardian: Workers must be given a right to do their jobs from home, Labour has demanded as it piled pressure on the government not to let its consultation on flexible working be kicked into the long grass. In the first major announcement made by Angela Rayner since gaining the portfolio of shadow cabinet minister for the future of work, she said employers should not be able to “dictate terms” to staff when the guidance urging people to work from home is expected to be lifted next month.
A right to disconnect, meaning workers would have a reasonable expectation of not having to work or check calls and emails outside their normal hours, is also being supported by Labour, to ensure homes do not become round-the-clock offices.
NEW From City AM: Deloitte tells staff they can work from home forever
Date: June 18, 2021
Staff working at Deloitte will be able to work wherever they want when Covid restrictions are eased and work from home guidance is scrapped. Staff at the Big Four firm will not be obligated to work from the office for a minimum number of days per week, as has been a typical response of Deloitte’s competitors.
Some 15,000 Deloitte staff responded to an internal survey about the future of work at the Big Four firm, with more than 80 per cent of those saying they expected to work from a Deloitte office for two days or fewer per week. More than 90 per cent of Deloitte’s workforce said ‘choice’ and ‘flexibility’ should be at the heart of how the business operates in future.
NEW From the Guardian (UK): Ministers will not tell workers to return to office when lockdown ends
Date: June 17, 2021
Workers will not be told by ministers that they should return to their offices when the final phase of lockdown restrictions are expected to be lifted next month, government sources have told the Guardian. In a significant change of approach from last summer, the government is minded to let companies make their own decisions – a strategy that could lead to conflict and confusion among staff.
Boris Johnson was accused of rushing too quickly to get quiet city centres back to pre-pandemic levels when restrictions were lifted last July. His former closest adviser, Dominic Cummings, said last month that the prime minister’s “main concern” was prioritising helping the economy recover quickly at the expense of Covid cases rising again. But Johnson is said to favour a more cautious approach in the run-up to the final stage of his roadmap out of lockdown for England, pushed back from 21 June to 19 July.
From the Tony Blair Institute: Anywhere Jobs: Reshaping the Geography of Work
Date: June 16, 2021
From the Tony Blair Institute: The immediate consequences of the pandemic on the economy and jobs and the need for supportive government action were always clear. But what is becoming clearer is that the experience of people and businesses managing the crisis has brought about a fundamental change in attitudes to work and technology. This report pieces together the data from various different sources and finds that roughly one in five jobs in the UK, or 6 million jobs, can now be classified as “Anywhere Jobs”, with characteristics that mean they can be done remotely or principally remotely as efficiently or more efficiently than in normal office working. It is also clear that for many employees, the experience of working from home has been beneficial and is likely to remain their preference, at least for certain days of the week.
From the Guardian (UK): City banks’ return-to-work plans hit by delay to lockdown easing
Date: June 14, 2021
From the Guardian UK: The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said more than a third of people working from home – 36% – thought they would keep the arrangement for most of the week. However, there is less enthusiasm among managers, with as few as 24% of companies planning to use increased home working in future.
‘WFH is a fad. We’re moulded by science or God to be together,’ says Sir George Iacobescu
Date: June 13, 2021
An interview in the The Times (UK) with the Canary Wharf’s Sir George Iacobescu, who fled Romania and built Canary Wharf. At 75, he’s stepping back, but he’s feeling defiant.
From the UK Guardian: Goldman Sachs staff in US must disclose Covid vaccination status
Date: June 12, 2021
From the Guardian (UK): Goldman Sachs has told its staff in the US that they must disclose their Covid-19 vaccination status before a planned return to office working next week. The investment bank, whose 6,000 UK workers have separately been told they have the option of filling out their status anonymously to give the business an idea of vaccination levels, had previously told US staff that disclosing their inoculation status would be optional.
Post-pandemic decisions needed on working from home
Date: June 12, 2021
Irish Times columnist Cliff Taylor writes: An awful lot hangs on whether working from home lasts beyond the end of the pandemic. Of course, now that everyone has seen how remote working can operate, some form of work flexibility is here to stay. But beyond that we really haven’t a clue how this is going to work out. As one senior executive observed to me this week – where will your place of work be in future? Is it defined by your desk in work or by where you set up your laptop. So far, many companies are plumping for “hybrid” working – a mix of in and out of the office – as a kind of half-way house when employees start to return in the autumn. It is a reasonable starting point. But everyone is just feeling their way into this new world. And where this lands is vital – not only for how many of us live, but also for city centres, for urban planning, for transport, for fairness, for productivity and for much more.
The Economist: Remote workers work longer, not more efficiently
Date: June 10, 2021
From The Economist: The return to the office is well under way, just as summer in the northern hemisphere begins. Pretty soon, people will be able to resume the habit of staring wistfully out of the window, hoping it will still be sunny at the weekend. As many workers embrace a hybrid pattern, perhaps commuting 2-3 days a week, the experiment in full-time home-working is ending. At the same time, assessments of its effectiveness are proliferating.
REUTERS: Wall Streeters outpace Europeans back to office
Date: June 7, 2021
Reuters: American banks could steal another march on their European rivals. JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs’ David Solomon want staff back at their New York and City of London desks at least some of the time this summer. Barclays, Deutsche Bank and HSBC, are being laxer. Sidewalk-pounding bankers working at Wall Street firms might win more facetime with clients, and an even greater share of deals.
CBS NEWS: United Airlines says it, too, won’t hire unvaccinated workers
Date: June 7, 2021
From CBS News: United Airlines is following in Delta’s flight path in saying it won’t hire employees who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19. “As we welcome new employees to the company, it’s important we instill in them United’s strong commitment to safety,” the carrier stated in a memo to employees. “Effective for all job offers made after June 15, 2021, we will require any external candidates for U.S.-based jobs to attest that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by their start date.” New employees will be required to upload their vaccination card into United’s system within seven days of joining the company.
Apple asks employees to return to the office three days a week in September.
Date: June 7, 2021
Transitioning from a remote work scenario, as necessitated by Covid, to hybrid work in a post-Covid world will not be easy or without hiccups, even in the most forward thinking of companies.
Opinion: “We are being hamstrung by selfish refuseniks insisting they have a right to work from home for ever”
Date: June 7, 2021
For a different perspective on the return to the office, you may like to read this opinion piece from the UK Daily Mail’s columnist: Richard Littlejohn… an opinion writer who lives in Florida, writes for a UK newspaper and has probably not been based anywhere near an office for the past 20 years?
UK Government set to take ‘gentle’ approach to get people back to the office
Date: June 2, 2021
City A.M. reports that government ministers will not take a hard-line approach to getting people back into the office once Covid restrictions are fully eased, with a source telling the paper there needs to be “a co-operative, gentle reminder” that “is about extolling the virtues of people going back into work.” This contrasts with a stance taken last year where it was suggested firms could sack those who refused to stop working remotely post-lockdown. City A.M. says some business groups are calling for officials to help enable firms to implement a more flexible model. The British Chambers of Commerce wants businesses to be given “clear guidance, information and best practice resources” to help them “embrace the broadest range of remote, workplace and flexible working options as we emerge from the pandemic.”
SAP adopts flexible working, by popular demand
Date: June 1, 2021
From Reuters: Walldorf, Germany headquartered business software group SAP is to adopt flexible working for the company’s 100,000 employees around the world in response to overwhelmingly positive feedback from staff after the experience of remote working during the pandemic. An internal survey found that 94% of employees desired greater working flexibility, and nearly half of them planned to work in the office for one or two days a week in the future. “It gives employees 100% flexibility,” Julia White, SAP’s recently appointed chief marketing and solutions officer, told Reuters. SAP says it was adopting a “flexible and trust-based workplace as the norm, not the exception.”
In Ireland, Digital-hub ‘life changing’ for Swinford entrepreneurs
Date: May 31, 2021
FROM RTE.ie: The first phase of a national hub network has been launched in Swinford, Co Mayo, as part of the Government’s five year strategy for rural Ireland. The former Swinford courthouse in the centre of the town was lying idle and derelict before being transformed into a high-tech hub. It now provides remote working facilities for young people, businesses, and tourists.
House Hunters Are Leaving the City, and Builders Can’t Keep Up
Date: May 29, 2021
From the NYT: After a prolonged period of anemic sales since the housing bust, home builders now risk losing business because they can’t supply enough inventory. Home prices have shot up 11.3 percent over the past year, according to CoreLogic, keeping many people out of the market. At the same time, the cost of labor and raw materials — in particular the cost of lumber, which has more than doubled over the past year — is spiraling upward, pushing prices higher still.
Just as notable as the level of new construction is where it is taking place. From the mountains of central Pennsylvania to the one-stoplight towns beyond Houston’s endless expanse to California’s San Joaquin Valley, developers are racing to build homes in areas that buyers used to judge beyond the outer limits of an acceptable commute.
City-dwellers who work from home can be left feeling lonely and glum, new analysis suggests
Date: May 27, 2021
A survey of the country’s well-being found that city-dwellers working from home were less happy compared with those travelling to work or working away from their homes.
However the WFH effect on happiness did not apply to those living in the countryside, the Office for National Statistics study found. The data was drawn from regular ONS well-being surveys carried out in England and Wales during the first three months of this year. Yesterday’s report said that across England and Wales happiness levels averaged 7.2 out of 10. But in London the score dropped to 6.5.
KPMG launches relaxed work policies to combat remote work fatigue
Date: May 26, 2021
Based on staff feedback during the pandemic, KPMG has devised a set of policies addressing the strains and stress of remote working. Measures include: “heads-down” time on Wednesday afternoons, for staff to focus exclusively on work, with no non-essential meetings; shorter meeting times; and “camera-free Fridays,” with the aim of creating a “more relaxed transition into the weekend” by not requiring staff to appear on camera. While these policies are not formal, the firm says that “people can make these changes the rule versus the exception, but we recognize there are circumstances when that may not be possible.”
Workers Return to Weirder Offices With Moveable Walls and Touchless Elevators
Date: May 26, 2021
From Bloomberg: Masked, desk-bound and unable to recognize their colleagues in an elevator, people are starting to return to offices in cities around the world where the pandemic is receding. Many will find their offices transformed, too.
In the challenge to make offices both Covid-safe and attractive places to work, firms have been experimenting with working arrangements and space while employees toiled at home. Some gave up floor space to adjust to less rigid schedules, others introduced movable walls to create flexible areas. Many installed safety innovations such as touchless lifts and worked to improve air quality.
IndustriALL: Landmark agreement in Germany: trade unions can legally access teleworkers
Date: May 26, 2021
In Germany, IG BCE has recently signed a pioneer agreement that can inspire sister unions across Europe. In the German rubber industry, trade unionists from now on have a legal right to access teleworkers. This new agreement is a novelty in the field of trade union rights, as it enables communication with teleworkers in order to recruit members, defend their rights and to take collective decisions at the same time as data protection is observed. From now on, around 30,000 workers in 100 rubber companies nationwide can be reached via:
Video conference software / Digital blackboards / Company mailing lists
The specific arrangements in each company will be agreed on by the local Social Partners. This will be essential to a successful partnership and to prevent conflicts due to lack of information.
Hybrid working: risk review and reset for growth beyond 2021
Date: May 26, 2021
With many employees continuing to work remotely and subject to stay-at-home requirements, curfews and other measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, we are busy advising on the issues raised by remote working; whether temporarily while restrictions continue, or for those employers considering arrangements in the longer term, perhaps as part of a hybrid working arrangement or in response to individual staff requests.
In our latest podcast, Olivia Sinfield, UK employment partner, talks to Anke Freckmann, Chair of our International Employment Group and a partner in our Berlin office about what we are seeing as clients transition to hybrid working arrangements. Osborne Clarke
What’s the Point of the Office Again?
Dates: May 26, 2021
From Bloomberg: The workplace offers the opportunity for social display, not improved productivity… People worked from home — once derided as “shirking from home” — for a year, and the sky didn’t fall. In fact, people worked harder and became more efficient. Time once wasted on commuting was reallocated, and flexibility made it easier to pivot between work and life. Less time went to politicking and gossiping, and more time went to important work. The office is primarily a social space, not a productive one. Most humans aren’t solitary, like snow leopards, but more like birds. The office provides a place to ruffle plumage and establish a pecking order.
The boss is back but the workers are staying at home
Dates: May 24, 2021
From the FT: Across New York and other big cities, chief executives have returned to offices that are, oftentimes, their seat of power and most cherished environment. Yet statistics suggest their workers do not feel the same pull — whether it is because of health concerns, a lack of childcare, or the misery of commuting.
Staff to get vouchers for home takeaway deliveries as companies seek replacement for office canteen?
Date: May 23, 2021
From the Daily Mail: White collar staff could be given vouchers to order takeaway deliveries at home as companies seek a replacement for the office canteen. Firms adopting so-called ‘hybrid’ working arrangements are looking to ensure that employees at home and in the office are treated equally. And to replace staff canteens, with often subsidised food, some are looking at schemes where workers could order lunch from delivery services such as Just Eat and Deliveroo.
An exchange of views via the letters page of the Financial Times
Dates: May 18th & May 21st, 2021
Office culture requires serendipity, not Zoom – May 18
There is a new divide between firms that want to let staff choose whether to work from home and those that want everyone back in the office, pronto (“Ditch the bullet journal and stay in bed as long as you like,” Business Life, May 10). The division which emerges here is between those cases where staff want to go to work because they know that their firms are places where effort and talent get noticed and rewarded, and those firms (or organisations) where the feeling is that personal performance is rarely noticed or recognised. In this case, it makes little difference anyway.
It’s the second of these where staff will be pushing for extended lifestyle choices, and where the option to avoid the alarm clock and the daily commute quietly morphs into a welcome form of surrogate remuneration, a form of untaxed benefit in kind. One Covid era lesson is that yes, some parts of what staff do may well now be achieved just as well from home. So perhaps the sensible response is to allow one day a week of working from home. But it cannot be a Monday or a Friday, lest people drift into the “long-weekend mentality” trap. At successful firms, culture is everything, an invisible glue, as well as a vital part of the apprenticeship process for early-career staff. Culture can neither be created nor maintained on Zoom. It happens, unnoticed, 50 times a day, on staircases, in lifts, at coffee machines, at handbasins every bit as much as in scheduled business meetings.
Signed: Paul Newman, Former Chairman, ICAP Energy London W2, UK
Letter sent in Reply
Offices will be places to build social capital – May 21
Paul Newman (“Office culture requires serendipity not Zoom”, Letters, May 18) believes that staff should be “allowed” to work from home one day a week but that it “cannot” be a Monday or Friday, in order for their “effort and talent [to] get noticed and rewarded”. This is wrong on at least two levels. Firstly, talent does not flourish when it is told when and where it is allowed to work. This sort of command and control management strategy has not been well regarded for many years, for good reason. If your staff are only prevented from slipping into what you call “extended lifestyle choices” by bunking off if not under constant physical supervision, then the problem is you not them. Secondly, it is counter-intuitive but true that you can identify the staff that add the most value more easily when everyone is remote working. Mediocrity hides in offices.
As for his claims about serendipity, culture and developing younger people being impossible when working remotely: it again reveals an attitude that was clearly calcified before this great forced experiment in remote working began. It also reveals a shallow understanding of what can be achieved with videoconferencing and indeed the very purpose of what an office is for. For us, the office will be a place where we meet, where we discuss projects, where we train and exchange ideas. Ironically going to work will be where we build social capital. How much office time each firm or team or function will need will of course vary, and that is for them to refine over time. A mandated compulsory across-the board prescription, such as Newman’s, was out of date even before the pandemic changed things.
Signed: Max Thowless-Reeves, Fradswell, Staffordshire, UK
PvdA says Dutch workers should have legal right not to answer work calls after hours:
Date: May 20, 2021
The Labour Party in the Netherlands (PvdA) wants to legislate on the ‘right to disconnect’ from work to stop employers contacting staff at all times of the day or night. Employers should agree with workers about when they can be contacted or else face warnings and fines from social affairs ministry inspectors, said lawmaker Gijs van Dijk, who said the pandemic is eroding the dividing line between work and private life.
“People have been working from home a lot in the last year,” he said. “They have been answering emails from their employers during the night because they had to help their children do their schoolwork during the day. After work you have a right to empty your head. I don’t think employers can expect people to react to mail, calls or messages during that time. In France that is the law already.” Van Dijk also noted that burn-out is the number one cause of absenteeism in the Netherlands. Data from statistics agency CBS indicate that both regular employees and self-employed people working from home work longer hours.
Covid cuts spell the end of business trips and expenses
Date: May 19th, 2021
From The Times (UK): Analysis of financial records shows that big companies have saved “fortunes” on travel, marketing and other administrative expenses as employees worked from home as a consequence of the pandemic. Google, Amazon and HSBC have each reported savings of more than $1bn. The Times’ Charlie Parker, reflecting on whether the outlay on such expenses will return to pre-pandemic levels, says analysts expect a “redirection” of costs into new expenses more pertinent to new ways of working. Sean Drury, employment partner at PwC, says companies may be looking to adjust their spending based on increasing individual productivity, and points to the cost of items such as technology for home-based staff and reimbursement for electricity bills.
Company tells home workers to track their carbon footprint
Date: May 18, 2021
From the Daily Telegraph: One of Britain’s biggest money managers has asked staff to monitor their carbon footprint while working from home as part of a new green energy drive. Standard Life Aberdeen is asking thousands of staff to download an app that will help it meet climate goals
Irish Remote Working Survey Shows 95% In Favour of Working Remotely
Date: May 18th 2021
Survey led by NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission shows that 47% of team managers find no difference between managing their team remotely compared to onsite while 44% say it is more difficult to manage the team remotely.Researchers from the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission have published summary data from the second annual national remote working survey in Ireland. The survey gathered responses from over 6,400 employees, examining their experience of remote working one year after lockdown.
This is the first national survey to attain managers’ views of the impact of remote work on their team. Over 2,100 managers gave their views on managing teams remotely and their plans for remote work post pandemic.
UNI-GLOBAL: Analysis of Covid-19 support for workers ranking 181 governmental responses, finds Argentina top
Date: May 18th, 2021
A new global study from UNI Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has found that 98 per cent of the world’s workers are not getting the sick pay, wage replacement and social benefits they need to withstand the impacts of COVID-19.
McKinsey: What executives are saying about the future of hybrid work
Date: May 17, 2021
Organizations are clear that postpandemic working will be hybrid. After that, the details get hazy. In the postpandemic future of work, nine out of ten organizations will be combining remote and on-site working, according to a new McKinsey survey of 100 executives across industries and geographies.1 The survey confirms that productivity and customer satisfaction have increased during the pandemic.
IBEC research reveals business expectations for return to workplaces
Date: May 17th 2021
IBEC, the group that represents Irish business, has published the results of a major survey of business that reveals that businesses across Ireland are beginning their preparations for a gradual return to workplaces in the coming weeks and months. The survey findings reaffirm the urgent need for Government to provide clarity and timelines to support businesses in safely returning staff to the workplace.
IBEC CEO Danny McCoy said: “Clarity from Government on the timing of graduated workplace reopening is now key for companies in order to reignite collaboration, culture and confidence in their workforce. Government’s roadmap must be aligned with an ongoing review of reopening timelines that reflects the risk reduction that the vaccine programme is delivering. This means a potential earlier gradual return to workplaces than the previously flagged expected return time of September.”
IndustriALL REPORT: Why telework needs institutional regulation and collective bargaining
Date: May 17th, 2021
Telework has expanded massively during the pandemic and is here to stay. For some workers it has been a positive experience but working remotely over a long period has also revealed limitations and risks. Trade unions have to react quickly to make sure that workers can benefit from teleworking while avoiding potential pitfalls.
Accountancy firm BDO tells staff to work where they want after pandemic
Date: May 17th, 2021
From the FT: Accountancy firm BDO has told staff to decide for themselves when to come to the office after the pandemic, adopting a more flexible approach than banks and professional services groups that have told employees how often they should expect to commute.
The UK’s fifth-largest accountant, which employs about 5,500 people across 18 offices, will ask staff to work wherever is most productive depending on the task they are doing. For most people this will involve a mixture of working at home, in the office and at client sites, BDO said.
How to avoid the return of office cliques
Date: May 17th, 2021
From the FT: As offices open, there are fears that if hybrid is mismanaged, organisational power will revert to the workplace with executives forming in-office cliques and those employees who seek promotion and networking opportunities switching back to face time with senior staff as a way to advance their careers.
Status-conscious workers may be itching to return to the office, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of business psychology at Columbia University and UCL. “Humans are hierarchical by nature, and the office always conveyed status and hierarchy — car parking spots, cars, corner office, size, windows. The risk now is that, in a fully hybrid and flexible world, status ends up positively correlated with the number of days at the office.”
Women ‘will suffer most’ if we go back to the office every day, claims boss of Aviva insurance
Date: May 16th, 2021
Women will be the biggest losers if workers are forced to return to offices five days a week after the pandemic, the boss of insurance giant Aviva has warned. Chief executive Amanda Blanc said the lockdown had given businesses a chance to reassess working patterns to help women who are saddled with the brunt of childcare and other responsibilities at home.
Aviva has emailed its 16,500 staff to say that it is ‘safe’ to return to the office if they wish to do so, according to a memo seen by The Mail on Sunday.
From EY Australia: How to remake Central Business Districts the powerhouses of our economies.
Date: May, 2021
In late 2020, the Property Council commissioned EY to take a deep dive into the issue. EY surveyed more than 600 CBD users and interviewed 26 big thinkers with local and international perspectives. EY ran focus groups with CBD users, hosted roundtables with Property Council members and investigated emerging trends. EY scoured the globe for best practice case studies that could hint at future possibilities.
This report – which refers to close to 100 academic papers and international insights – is a curation of the big issues and best ideas out there. The findings are encouraging and offer insights into how CBDs can continue to be powerful forces into the future, and how they can be better than pre-pandemic.
Open Report PDF HERE
Death of the call centre? Workers ring in the changes during WFH era
Date: May 14th, 2021
From The FT: A recent poll of 107 call centre managers and directors conducted by industry bodies found just four who anticipate a full return to the office.
HSBC has confirmed its 1,200 call centre staff will remain at home permanently. Outsourcer Capita has said many of its 16,000-strong call centre workforce in the UK can do the same, while rival Teleperformance has indicated many of its 10,000 employees will be allowed to continue working remotely once the pandemic subsides.
Booking.com CEO: Business travel will never recover to pre-Covid levels
Date: May 13th, 2021
The lucrative business travel market, which sees suited and booted executives fly between London, New York, Frankfurt and beyond and bolsters bottom lines at airlines and hotels globally, will never fully recover from Covid.
That’s the verdict from Booking.com CEO Glenn Fogel, whose company has grown to be the biggest travel firm in the world, with a market cap of $90bn.
UK PM, Boris Johnson looks at swift easing of homeworking rules in England
Date: May 12th, 2021
From the FT: Boris Johnson has signalled that work-from-home guidance for England will be lifted next month if Covid-19 cases continue to drop.
Asked about the government’s advice to workers, and whether it would be relaxed on June 21, the prime minister told the House of Commons: “That is certainly our intention provided we stay on track . . . we must be guided by what’s happening with the pandemic.”
JP Morgan’s UK staff set to return to office from next month
Date: May 11th, 2021
JP Morgan has told its UK staff that more of them will return to the office from next month as restrictions start to ease.
The American bank told staff to prepare for a “consistent schedule” which combines both remote and office working but offices will operate at maximum 50 per cent of capacity, according to a memo seen by Financial News.
US and Europe split on bringing bankers back to the office
Date: May 10th, 2021
From the Financial Times: A transatlantic rift has opened up in banking over the merits of bringing employees back to the office quickly, with some US executives calling for a swift return to pre-pandemic normality while many of their European counterparts take a more cautious approach.
London will ‘bustle’ again as lockdown ends and remote working era fades
Date: May 10th, 2021
Very little guidance was given on working from home, however, and for how long that should continue when lockdown restrictions ease further on 21 June. With that said, Johnson said he expected cities and town centres to once again “bustle” when work from home guidance is amended, with people keen to return to interact in a way that was familiar to them pre-pandemic.
Flexibility and fellow staff will pull us back to the office
Date: May 10th, 2021
Op-Ed by Andrew Hill: In planning a post-pandemic return to the workplace, too many employers are fixated on fixtures and fittings.
…As employers contemplate how to accommodate the flexible, post-pandemic needs of their vastly more privileged white-collar staff, they talk increasingly about how to “entice” people to return. They switch between outright orders and passive-aggressive hints, such as Goldman Sachs’s memo to staff last week, reminding them that its “culture of collaboration, innovation and apprenticeship thrives when our people come together”. They flag the fixtures and fittings they have designed to make office life safe and attractive. Some seem fixated on rearranging the desk-chairs on the sinking hulk of the old workplace.
A new culture of work awaits
Date: May 10th, 2021
The Times considers some of the anxieties people have ahead of a return to the office next month as businesses set up their hybrid working models. The paper’s Damian Whitworth reminds readers of the importance of the office, quoting PwC chairman Kevin Ellis, who says employees would jeopardise their careers were they to work remotely indefinitely. That said, talent won’t commute into the office to do work that can be done at home.
“People want somewhere where they can congregate and socialise in a work sense and collaborate. You’re not going to come into the office to work behind your desk in an office with the door shut.” Psychology professor Cary Cooper adds that not all companies permitting home working are motivated by altruism – they know staff are working longer hours and they can reduce their office space, saving a fortune.
The Great Exhaustion.
Date: May 9th, 2021
Hybrid working embraced by most of the Square Mile’s largest employers.
Date: May 8th, 2021
A majority of the City of London’s largest employers will continue with some sort of hybrid approach to working after pandemic restrictions ease. Employees appear largely in agreement that, even though the flexibility of working from home is enjoyable, collaboration is more challenging remotely. The Square Mile’s ten largest employers by office size were surveyed by City AM: the Bank of England, Nomura, Big Four firms Deloitte, PwC and KPMG along with Deutsche Bank all say they will be moving to a hybrid model.
But Goldman Sachs is rejecting flexible or hybrid working while UBS is understood to be offering “case-by-case” flexibility to employees. Separately, the Observer reports that KPMG has told its 16,000 UK staff that from June they will only have to work two days in the office per week, on average, as the firm revealed its plan for a post-pandemic model. The company has called the initiative a “four-day fortnight” under which staff will spend the remaining days working either from home or at clients’ sites.
Chris Herd’s remote working tips
Dated: May 8th, 2021
A Twitter thread from our friend Chris Herd (Chris recorded a BEERG Byte (#15) with us in Oct 2020) featuring several few tips on working remotely from twenty experts with 100+ years experience working remotely:
Thread Unroll: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread.html
Washingtonian staff goes on publishing strike after CEO’s op-ed about remote work
Dated: May 7th, 2021
Washingtonian magazine staffers launched a day-long protest on Friday in response to an op-ed written by their boss, who warned that continuing to work from home as the pandemic subsides could make employees less valuable and easier to “let go.” Cathy Merrill, chief executive of the D.C.-centered magazine, shared her concerns about the popularity of remote work in a Washington Post op-ed published Thursday, originally titled: “As a CEO, I want my employees to understand the risks of not returning to work in the office.”
While some employees may want to “work from home and pop in only when necessary” after the pandemic, Merrill argued, the dynamic may create a “strong incentive” for bosses to convert full-time workers into contractors, who get paid by the hour or output and lack benefits such as health-care coverage and retirement accounts.
“Although there might be some pains and anxiety going back into the office, the biggest benefit for workers may be simple job security,” she wrote in her conclusion. “Remember something every manager knows: The hardest people to let go are the ones you know.”
Goldman to bring US and UK bankers back to the office in June
Dated: May 6th, 2021
Goldman Sachs has told its bankers in the US and UK that they should be ready to return to the office next month in a move that makes the New York lender one of Wall Street’s first major banks to recall employees.
“We know from experience that our culture of collaboration, innovation and apprenticeship thrives when our people come together, and we look forward to having more of our colleagues back in the office so that they can experience that once again on a regular basis,” said a staff memo signed by the bank’s three most senior executives, including chief executive David Solomon. The message said that, “in the US, we ask those who have not yet done so to make plans to be in a position to return to the office by Monday, June 14.” The bank wants its British employees to be prepared to return to physical locations by June 21.
No full-time return to the office for over a million people in UK
Date: May 6th, 2021
Almost all of 50 of the UK’s biggest employers questioned by the BBC say they do not plan to bring staff back to the office full-time.
Some 43 of the companies said they would embrace a mix of home and office working, with staff encouraged to work from home two to three days a week. Organisations cited “smart working” and “flexibility” as reasons for introducing hybrid working, and many suggested that workers would be able to make their own choices about how often they come in to the office. Danny Harmer, chief people officer at insurance giant Aviva, said 95% of its workers said they’d like to be able to spend some of their time working flexibly and remotely in different locations.
Mark Read, chief executive of advertising firm WPP, said: “We’re never going to go back to working the way we used to work.” But he noted that the new ways of using the office require careful planning. “People are working from home three to four days a week so we probably need 20% less space, but we’re not going to do that if everyone’s working from home on Mondays and Fridays.” Only a few of the companies surveyed by the BBC have been shutting offices, with some saying they will wait until leases run out.
Google and KPMG post-pandemic plans to let staff work from home
Dated: May 6th, 2021
Google and KPMG have revealed their post-pandemic plans to let staff work from home – as firms consider how much time staff should spend in the office as normality returns.
Accounting firm KPMG told its 16,000 UK staff on Wednesday that they will work in the office for up to four days in a fortnight starting next month under a hybrid working model drawn up following the recent decline in British Covid cases. And U.S. tech giant Google revealed plans to allow 20 per cent of its 140,000 employees to permanently work from home starting September 1. The company had originally plan to have all of its employees return to work at its offices at least three times a week.
A spokesperson for Google said that starting in September, the company will also transition to a ‘hybrid model’ with a majority of employees required in the office for at least three days per week.
JP Morgan to order all back
Dated: May 5th, 2021
Coming out of the pandemic, JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon is eager for other signs of normalcy. More JP Morgan employees will return to the office starting this month, though Mr. Dimon acknowledged they aren’t all happy about it. But the remote office, he said, doesn’t work for generating ideas, preserving corporate culture, competing for clients or “for those who want to hustle.”
“We want people back at work and my view is some time in September, October, it will look just like it did before,” Mr. Dimon said. “Yes, people don’t like commuting, but so what?” To Mr. Dimon, commuting is better than the alternative. “I’m about to cancel all my Zoom meetings,” he added. “I’m done with it.”
KPMG UK gives staff extra time off amid shift to hybrid working
Dated: May 5th 2021
No full-time return to the office for over a million people in UK after enduring stressful working conditions during the pandemic. Employees will also get an extra day off on June 21st when Covid restrictions are lifted in the UK. The firm told staff on Wednesday that they will spend on average just two days a week in the office from June as part of a shift to permanent flexible working.
Kevin Hogarth, KPMG’s chief people officer, said: “We are trying to shift what we use our offices for and embrace hybrid ways of working. We think the activities that should take place when people come together are not sitting at a desk or sitting in front of a PC completing work on their own. We want to focus the time that people come into the office on those things where there’s real value in bringing people together: collaboration; problem solving; project planning; innovation and training.”
Ericsson to launch subscription service for remote working
Dated May 4th, 2021
Swedish telecom equipment company Ericsson is launching a subscription service for remote working in North America. The service would allow employees of small businesses to start working remotely in minutes with access to licensed apps, cloud storage and security tools. Applications can be purchased from a marketplace, the platform accessed from any device, and a dedicated IT technician would not be needed to set up the system.
Åsa Tamsons, Ericsson’s head of business area technologies and new businesses, noted that customers can decide which employees can get access to certain apps or capabilities.
Scotland: Businesses seek out smaller, connected offices
Date: May 4th 2021
Digital connectivity, rather than physical location, is likely to be the main driver for the workspace of the future, according to a survey of Scottish businesses for the Addleshaw Goddard Scottish Business Monitor. More than 500 businesses were asked during the first quarter of the year about their future workspace priorities. Nearly all who responded (95%) said internet and digital connectivity would be the top priority, compared to only 15% who preferred a city centre location, and 40% who named strong public transport links as the determining factors.
More than a quarter of businesses (27%) expect to permanently reduce their office footprint, even though nearly two-thirds (61%) say that homeworking has had an impact on workplace innovation and culture, and nearly half (49%) say it has had an impact on productivity. To counter this, 42% of organisations have invested in new technology to aid productivity in the last year. Virtually the same proportion (41%) say that flexible and collaborative space will be key to their new physical place of work.
Norwegian wealth fund rethinks working week
Dated May 3rd, 2021
Employees at Norway’s sovereign wealth fund will only be asked to come to work at the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays once the pandemic is over, according to CEO Nicolai Tangen. He said Norges Bank Investment Management, the central bank unit that manages the $1.3 trillion fund, would offer flexible working to its 520 employees in Oslo, London, Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo and Luxembourg.
He told a parliamentary hearing in Oslo: “We are thinking that after the pandemic we will allow up to two days a week of home office and we have two fixed days in the office for everyone for meetings,” adding that this arrangement was a way of attracting and retaining the best workers. He said the policy would also apply to the rest of the central bank, adding “You need to offer flexibility in a different way than before. It is just not acceptable to require people to be in the office all the time. I think it shows that you don’t trust people.”
From Deloitte: Understanding the pandemic’s impact on working women
Dated: May, 2021
A study from Deloitte has found that the pandemic has dented female professionals’ work-life balance and overall wellbeing. The Women @ Work survey found that the pandemic, which drove a wave of home-working and home-schooling, has taken “a heavy toll on women’s wellbeing, motivation and careers.”
Researchers found that 31% of British professional women surveyed believe they have a good work-life balance, down from 71% pre-pandemic. While 68% said they had “good” mental health before the coronavirus crisis, the rate has now fallen to 27%. Meanwhile, 59% are less optimistic about their career prospects, and 24% are considering leaving the workforce altogether. Just 32% of women say they currently feel satisfied and motivated at work compared to 70% before the crisis. Jackie Henry at Deloitte said the last year has been a “perfect storm” for many women, delivering increased workloads and greater responsibilities at home, “and a blurring of the boundaries between the two.” She added that the pandemic has seen women’s job satisfaction and motivation at work “severely impacted.”
Advanced Workplace Associates – US & UK papers:
Dated: April, 2021
AWA has revealed post COVID-19 world of work needs a new psychological contract between employers and employees that recognizes the unique needs of people at different stages in their lives. The creation of new ‘working together agreements’ must be facilitated by leaders and teams within an organization-wide framework, to determine how best teams can work together – whilst ensuring fairness and consistency.
Their latest report explores the key issues surrounding a return to a ‘new normal’ hybrid work approach, and how best organizations can embrace change – without returning to old habits. There are separate UK and US versions to download:
Clifford Chance to work minimum of 50% in the office
Dated: April 30th, 2021
Staff at law firm Clifford Chance will be expected to return to the office for at least 50% of the week post-pandemic. The firm is hoping to make the changes by June 21st, in line with the easing of lockdown restrictions. Regional managing partner Michael Bates said: “In listening to feedback from our people and considering how to support high performance, productivity and wellbeing, we believe we should work in a more agile and flexible way than we have historically.”
Post-pandemic economy will create tricky problems for politicians
Dated: April 29th, 2021
An Op-Ed by Rupert Harrison, a former chair of the council of economic advisors and portfolio manager at BlackRock: The boom will continue through the summer at least, but this is just the sugar rush after the release from lockdown. It’s going to take a lot longer until we learn how the pieces of the new post-Covid economy really fit back together. The sea change in habits and technology unleashed by the pandemic will gradually ripple out through all parts of the economy and our lives. That will create winners and losers, and will pose some new headaches for governments.
Let’s start with some simple changes. The great working from home experiment has accelerated the shift towards flexible working by a decade or more. Even when the pandemic is over we now know it works, it saves money, and it makes most people happier — or at least it does in small doses. Most big employers are converging on a mixed model where people will split their week between home and office.