Tracking recent developments in remote working

If you find a link or story which you think should appear here, please let us know by emailing: dmooney@beerg.com
Stories appear in the order of publication – but are not necessarily posted in that order. Look for NEW in the headline to indicate that the story has been posted in the past 48 hours

July 2021

NEW From the Financial Times: Google and Facebook to require Covid vaccination for workers at US offices

Date: 29 July, 2021

From the FT:  Google and Facebook have said they will require workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before they return to work at their US campuses amid a rise in cases blamed on the rapid spread of the Delta variant.  Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, said the policy would be introduced in the US “in the coming weeks” before being rolled out globally for its 144,000 employees.  The internet search group also said on Wednesday that it would delay the full reopening of its campuses until October 18 due to the spread of the Delta variant, pushing back the official return to work by a month and a half.  Facebook said in a statement on Wednesday that it would require anyone coming to work at its US campuses to get vaccinated.  “How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations,” Lori Goler, vice-president of human resources, said in a statement.

Link: https://www.ft.com/content/671e3b0c-4aef-4b23-a609-a2e44d081a02

NEW From the BBC: Bumble to give staff unlimited paid holiday

Date: 29 July, 2021

Dating app Bumble has said its 700 employees can take unlimited paid leave providing their manager approves it. It is understood that the unlimited holiday is contingent on staff still managing to complete their work. The move comes after the firm temporarily closed its offices in June for a week to combat workplace stress.  The new leave policy was announced alongside a series of other changes, including a plan to shut the office for a week two times a year.  Bumble said the pandemic had made it “reflect on” the ways staff worked and prompted the change in approach.

Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-57997445

NEW From Vox EU: Let me work from home, or I will find another job

Date: 27 July, 2021

Employers in the US are grappling with whether and how to bring employees back to the office or other place of work. Using survey-based evidence, this column finds that four in ten Americans who currently work from home at least one day a week would seek another job if employers require a full return to business premises, and most workers would look favourably on a new job that offers the same pay with the option to work from home two or three days a week. High rates of quits and job openings in recent months appear to partly reflect a re-sorting of workers based on the scope for remote working.

Link: https://voxeu.org/article/let-me-work-home-or-i-will-find-another-job

NEW From The Guardian (UK): Labour says it will make flexible working the ‘new normal’

Date: 27 July, 2021

From The Guardian: Labour would legislate to make flexible working the default – including working from home or around the school-run – so that “work fits around people’s lives instead of dictating their lives”, Angela Rayner has announced. Employees already have the right to request flexible hours, but Labour says it would widen the definition of flexible working and give employers a legal responsibility to accommodate it unless they can show it is not workable. Rayner said as well as flexible hours, such as four-day weeks, the new duty on employers would cover compressed hours and flexibility around caring duties, including taking children to school or caring for them during school holidays.

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jul/27/labour-says-it-will-make-flexible-working-the-new-normal

NEW From The New York Times: Return to Office Hits a Snag: Young Resisters

Date: 27 July, 2021

A generation gap has emerged between them and colleagues who value the workplace over the advantages of remote work. Bridging it may require flexibility …While workers of all ages have become accustomed to dialing in and skipping the wearying commute, younger ones have grown especially attached to the new way of doing business.  And in many cases, the decision to return pits older managers who view working in the office as the natural order of things against younger employees who’ve come to see operating remotely as completely normal in the 16 months since the pandemic hit. Some new hires have never gone into their employers’ workplace at all.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/26/business/economy/return-office-young-workers.html

From Reuters: Everybody take the week off, Wall Street firm tells staff

Date: 26 July, 2021

NEW YORK (Reuters) – No calls, no emails and no meetings.  That’s the order this week from Aquiline Capital Partners to its staff. The private equity firm is putting all employees on vacation, people familiar with the matter said.  It’s an unusual move intended to recognize employees and avoid burnout from the physical and mental pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic and the frenetic pace of dealmaking. Aquiline has more than $6 billion in assets and over 60 employees in its New York headquarters and London office.  The firm has canceled all internal meetings for the week and told employees to refrain from calls, emails and chatroom messages, the sources said. If a company owned by Aquiline has an emergency, an employee will step in, one added.

Link: https://www.reuters.com/world/the-great-reboot/everybody-take-week-off-wall-street-firm-tells-staff-2021-07-26/

From Luxembourg Times: Luxembourg presses on with work through pandemic

Date: 26 July, 2021

Luxembourg saw EU’s second-lowest decline in working hours when disease put millions on furlough, Eurostat says. Workers in Luxembourg kept on producing last year even as businesses around the European Union shut down suddenly and put staff on furlough due to the pandemic, the EU statistics agency Eurostat said.  Only workers in the Netherlands saw less of a cut in their hours last year, Eurostat said on Friday.  Luxembourg tied with Finland and Denmark in seeing a 4% decline in hours worked while employees in the Netherlands saw a 3% fall.  People across the EU spent an average 12% fewer hours at work in 2020 as workers went on partial unemployment or took special leave, such as to look after children who had to stay off school.  The sharpest declines were in Greece and Spain, where people worked 20% less on average than usual last year.

Link: https://www.luxtimes.lu/en/luxembourg/eurostat-luxembourg-presses-on-with-work-through-pandemic-60fe7e25de135b92365ce803

From UK Law Gazette: 
Homeworking firms ‘neglecting compliance’

Date: 22 July, 2021

UK Law Society Gazette:  Firms are placing clients and staff at ‘significant risk’ by failing to pay attention to the impact working from home could have on compliance, a survey of 3,500 firms has found.  According to a study by software provider Access Legal, over 40% of practices have not fully updated their cybersecurity policies since moving to remote working in March last year. Meanwhile, 49% of firms surveyed said they had not carried out a data protection impact assessment (DPIA), which is designed to identify data risks.  ‘By not carrying out a DPIA, client data could be at high risk from cybercrime and data loss, especially if this data is being accessed and stored using an employee’s personal IT equipment that may not have appropriate security software installed and is accessible by other members of the family,’ Access Legal said.

Link: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/homeworking-firms-neglecting-compliance/5109305.article

From PlanetLabor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise on the road to 100% mobile working

Date: 20 July, 2021

The pandemic has showed the potential of mobile work. “100 percent mobile working” sounds pretty revolutionary, “but the reality is less radical than that,” smiled Ernst Reichart, who has been managing human resources at the HPE German subsidiary (i.e. not the computer manufacturer HP) for nearly 30 years. HPE’s headquarters are in the Böblingen suburb of Stuttgart, which is probably one of Germany highest density locations for the IT, automotive, and machine tools businesses. “In terms of mobile working, we aren’t going from 0 to 100. In our company, the office culture is already a very relative concept. Our industry and our corporate culture lend themselves well to remote working. Our employees appreciate it,” clarified Mr. Reichart. 

Link: https://www.planetlabor.com/en/industrial-relations-en/national-industrial-relations/germany-hewlett-packard-enterprise-on-the-road-to-100-mobile-working/

From Lewis Silkin LLP: End of lockdown restrictions – what does the new workplace safety guidance say?

Date: 15 July, 2021

From Lewis Silkin LLP: The government has updated its guidance on how to make workplaces Covid secure from 19 July 2021 when England moves to step 4 and most Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. This article sets out the most important issues for employers to consider in light of the new guidance. The existing 14 guides to working safely during coronavirus will be replaced by 6 new sector-specific guides from 19 July.

Link: https://www.lewissilkin.com/en/insights/end-of-lockdown-restrictions-what-does-the-new-workplace-safety-guidance-say

This follows on from Lewis Silkin’s other recent piece setting out how employers can mitigate the risk of Covid-related claims. 

From Times UK: Government’s back-to-work advice to businesses slammed across the board

Date: 15 July, 2021

From Times UK:  The government’s advice to companies on staff returning to work was criticised by businesses and unions yesterday as the world’s biggest holiday company told its UK staff they need to work from the office only one day a month. Tui, which employs more than 10,000 people across the UK and Ireland, is the latest company to change its workplace culture because of the pandemic. Its advice to staff comes as England prepares to lift most coronavirus curbs from next week.

Link: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/governments-back-to-work-advice-to-businesses-slammed-across-the-board-bwl93l9rf

From Reuters:  Work from home fuelling cyber attacks, says global financial watchdog

Date: 13 July, 2021

From Reuters:  Financial firms may need to bolster their defences in the face of rocketing cyber attacks after employees began working from home, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) said on Tuesday.   The FSB, which coordinates financial rules for the G20 group of nations, said remote working since economies went into lockdown to fight COVID-19 opened up new possibilities for cyber attacks. Working from home (WFH) is expected to stay in some form across the financial services industry and beyond.  “Most cyber frameworks did not envisage a scenario of near-universal remote working and the exploitation of such a situation by cyber threat actors,” the FSB said in a report to G20 ministers and central banks.

Link: https://www.reuters.com/business/work-home-fuelling-cyber-attacks-says-global-financial-watchdog-2021-07-13/

From McKinsey: Four ways communications can engage employees on the return to workplace journey.

Date: 12 July, 2021

McKinsey: In addition to its impact on lives and livelihoods, COVID-19 disrupted our sense of place. Familiar out-and-about spaces—stores, restaurants, places of worship, gyms, schools, and offices—made themselves comfortable in our homes. As we shopped online and ordered delivery, gathered around laptops for religious services and yoga sessions, and turned our dining rooms into classrooms, the line between work and home all but dissolved. As we reimagine what’s next, we are also re-evaluating how and where we want to work and even the relationship between employers and employees.

Link: https://mck.co/3k866iq  / https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-organization-blog/four-ways-communications-can-engage-employees-on-the-return-to-workplace-journey?

 

From Netherlands: Workers’ well-being improved drastically during the pandemic: ABN Amro

Date: 7 July , 2021

From NL Times (Online): The well-being of workers in the Netherlands increased by 12% during the pandemic, according to ABN Amro. Researchers at the bank observed that there was a significant upswing last year after a period between 2015 and 2020 which saw only slight improvements in well-being. 

Link: https://nltimes.nl/2021/07/07/workers-well-improved-drastically-pandemic-abn-amro

From The Guardian (UK): Is your boss ending remote work? As a CEO, let me tell you why they are wrong – By Dan Price

Date: 7 July , 2021

By Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments. The average worker logs almost an hour of unpaid work each day, for no good reason. I’m talking about the commute, which for decades has been taken for granted as a necessary part of the workday but which recently has been proven to be completely unnecessary for a large swath of workers. The miserable trek down the freeway or the sweaty wait for a late bus is coming back in vogue now that companies from Apple to Amazon and Goldman Sachs to JPMorgan Chase have told their workers to come back to the office in larger numbers. They say they need to do this to foster innovation and increase productivity.

As a CEO, that doesn’t make any sense to me

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jul/07/is-your-boss-ending-remote-work-as-a-ceo-let-me-tell-you-why-they-are-wrong

From BBC: Bank of England asks staff to come in once a week

Date: 6 July , 2021

From BBC:  The Bank of England is asking staff to come in to the office from September, starting with a minimum of once a week.  Its cautious approach contrasts with other companies in the City of London and the wider country who are keener to return to pre-pandemic office hours.  The government said people could return to the office after 19 July when Covid restrictions in England are lifted.  Government guidance that people who can work from home should do so, is set to end with other restrictions. Since the pandemic, 5% of the Bank of England’s 4,000 staff have been coming into the office.  Its chief operating officer and deputy governor, Joanna Place, said a recent survey of Bank staff showed that the majority hope to continue to work from home for at least two days a week.

Link:  https://www.bbc.com/news/business-57727567

From Bloomberg: Credit Suisse Plans ‘Maximum Flexibility’ Remote Work Model

Date: 5 July , 2021

From Bloomberg: Credit Suisse Group AG said it’s planning to introduce a work model that gives the bank employees in Switzerland “maximum flexibility,” joining global peers in making remote working arrangements more permanent. The approximately 13,000 employees of the universal bank in Switzerland will, depending on their role, be able to decide with their teams and line managers how much of their time they want to spend outside the office and which days to be in, according to a statement from the bank on Monday. “As we prepare for a post-pandemic world, our aim is to become more flexible and agile when it comes to working arrangements,” Credit Suisse Switzerland CEO Andre Helfenstein said in the statement

Link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-05/credit-suisse-plans-maximum-flexibility-remote-work-model

From CityAM: Bank of England deputy governor expects return to the office to be “bigger than we anticipate”

Date: 5 July , 2021

From CityAM:  The deputy governor and chief operating officer of the Bank of England told a conference today that she expects the return to the office “might be a bit bigger than we anticipate”. Joanna Place gave the remarks at an event hosted by the Investment Association in which she launched a pilot that will see all Bank of England staff work for at least one day per week in the office from September this year. The initiative will encourage teams at the Bank to participate in regular ‘team days’, where staff are encouraged to engage in collaborative work.

Link: https://www.cityam.com/bank-of-england-deputy-governor-expects-return-to-the-office-to-be-bigger-than-we-anticipate/

From The Herald (Scotland): John Lewis to introduce flexible working for all HQ staff

Date: 5 July , 2021

From the Herald Scotland: Bosses at John Lewis and Waitrose have confirmed they will introduce flexible working for staff at the employee-owned retailer based at the company’s head offices.  The announcement comes following the latest update from the Government over plans to ease lockdown restrictions from July 19, which include an end to the requirement that employees should work from home where they can.  Andrew Murphy, executive director of operations for the John Lewis Partnership, told the PA news agency: “If restrictions are lifted on July 19 we won’t tell our head office partners where to work. The pandemic has forced us all to rethink the norm of five days in an office.

Link: https://www.heraldscotland.com/business_hq/19421821.john-lewis-introduce-flexible-working-hq-staff/

From CityAM: One-in-four UK financial services workers want to work from home full-time, says new survey

Date: 5 July , 2021

From City AM: Almost one-in-four of the UK’s financial services workforce wants to work at home permanently post-pandemic, according to a new survey from Accenture. The survey found 24% of the country’s 1m financial services workers “would prefer to work entirely from home once a full return to office is possible”, while 69% said they wanted to work two days or less in the office. Just 8% of respondents said they wanted to go back to five days a week in the office when the working from home advice and social distancing restrictions are dropped.

Link: https://www.cityam.com/one-in-four-uk-financial-services-workers-want-to-work-from-home-full-time-says-new-survey/

From Daily Mail online:Asda introduces permanent hybrid working model

Date: 2 July , 2021

Supermarket will allow its 4,000 HQ staff to chose whether they work from home or come into the office post pandemic – Asda will introduce a permanent hybrid working model for staff at its head offices once coronavirus restrictions are eased this month. The supermarket chain has confirmed that around 4,000 employees at Asda House in Leeds and George House in Leicester will be able to choose the location from which they wish to work. Bosses said there is no set number of days staff will be expected in the office but they should talk to their managers to ‘strike the right balance between home and office working, whilst ensuring this is led by the needs of the business’.

Link: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9750075/Asda-introduces-permanent-hybrid-working-model.html

From Coface: The risks and opportunities of virtual offshoring

Date: 1 July , 2021

With permanent telecommuting no longer a taboo, employers will be increasingly tempted to hire teleworking talent in developing countries. Many emerging economies are quickly catching up on education and technological development; yet labour costs remain lower by an order of magnitude. More and more office work will be performed in the developing world and then immaterially exported to wealthier countries at a fraction of its domestic cost. This trend towards “virtual offshoring” is driven by strong financial incentives. For instance, firms in a country like France would reduce labour costs  by an estimated 7% if 1 out of 4 teleworkable jobs were virtually offshored. Coface estimates the total number of teleworkable jobs in high-income economies at around 160 million. In turn, the number of potential teleworkers in low and middle-income economies is close to 330 million.

Link to download Coface Report: https://www.coface.com/content/download/194838/3239229/file/GB_FOCUS+TELETRAVAIL-JUNE-WEB.pdf

June 2021

THE RIGHT TO DISCONNECT: Real relief for employees or just extra obligations for employers?

Date: June 30, 2021

From Wardyński & Partners, Warsaw, Poland: “In the table, we include a summary of how the right to disconnect has been regulated in Belgium, France (which was the first to introduce provisions on the right to disconnect), Italy and Spain. It is also notable that in these countries, the effectiveness of the legal solutions adopted has been disappointing in practice. Employers have adopted internal policies on the right to disconnect with great reluctance and much slower than expected, and employees have little awareness of their rights. This condition could be counted on to change during the pandemic, when the number of people working from home (and feeling the negative effects of remote work, which the right to disconnect is supposed to counteract) has definitely increased. 

Link: https://codozasady.pl/upload/2021/06/the-right-to-disconnect.pdf

From the BBC: Smaller firms angered by quarantine exemption plans for big business

Date: June 30, 2021

From the BBC:  Foreign business leaders will no longer need to quarantine when arriving in England if their trip is likely to have a significant economic benefit to the UK, the government has announced. The exemption will be for arrivals from amber-list countries, and only given in exceptional circumstances, the Department for Business (BEIS) said. Some business groups and MPs expressed anger as it excludes smaller companies. But BEIS said it would balance economic interests with public safety.

Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-57644437

City AM: 800,000 London jobs could be done elsewhere post-Covid

Date: June 29, 2021

From City AM:  Around two out of five people living and working in inner London could continue their roles remotely after the pandemic, according to new research. London risks losing more than 835,000 jobs as the pandemic sparks a permanent shift to more flexible working patterns, and city dwellers are able to move out of the capital to other locations across the UK or even abroad.  An analysis of ONS statistics by consultancy Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) found that 41 per cent of people living in London’s 14 inner boroughs could now do their jobs at a distance, i.e. not necessarily at their main office.

Link: https://www.cityam.com/800000-london-jobs-could-be-done-remotely-post-covid/

Daily Mail: ‘I spent my life in the office – but there is another way’: Starling bank boss Anne Boden says she’s embracing home working

Date: June 27, 2021

From the Daily Mail Online:  Boden, previously a staunch advocate of the office, believes the age of ‘presenteeism’ is over. She says: ‘I was somebody who went into the office early in the morning and stayed all day, every day of the week. I thought that was how things should be done. And at Starling I felt I had to be there early in the morning because I was a leader. I was wrong.  ‘Things don’t have to be done like that any longer. We can tap into more people in more regions with technology if we have a combination of hybrid working.’ 

Link: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/markets/article-9728065/Starling-bank-boss-Anne-Boden-advocates-change-work-habits.html

BBC Worklife: The workers pushing back on the return to the office

Date: June 22, 2021

From the BBC Worklife Webpage: Some companies want staff back in the office for more time than employees had anticipated. Workers like their set-ups, and even doubt bosses’ motives – so they’re resisting.

LINK: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210618-the-workers-pushing-back-on-the-return-to-the-office

The Telegraph (UK): No full-time return for most London office staff, firms warn

Date: June 21, 2021

The UK Telegraph: The Workers and their bosses seem keen on a permanent shift to hybrid working – which is bad news for those who serve commuters. London is braced for a long-term blow from Covid as offices prepare to make home-working permanent.

Link: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2021/06/21/no-full-time-return-london-office-staff-firms-warn/

The Guardian (UK): The problem isn’t remote working – it’s clinging to office-based practices?

Date: June 21, 2021

By Alexia Cambon: There have been few moments in the history of work as pivotal as the one we find ourselves in now. It took a pandemic to normalise remote working, and, despite the fears of many CEOs, most organisations saw no demonstrable loss of productivity. Now, the global workforce is demanding its right to retain the autonomy it gained through increased flexibility associeties open up again. Pre-pandemic, it was not uncommon for an employer to ask staff to justify their need to work from home. Post-pandemic, employees may ask employers to justify the need to come into the office.

LINK: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/jun/21/remote-working-office-based-practices-offices-employers

From Khaleej Times (UAE): 80% of UAE organisations experienced cyberattacks targeting remote workers

Date: 21 June, 2021

Close to 80% of organisations surveyed in the UAE experienced cyberattacks due to more employees working from home, highlighting the vulnerabilities in legacy security technology and postures.  VMware released the UAE findings from the fourth installment of the Global Security Insights Report, based on an online survey of 3,542 CIOs, CTOs and CISOs in December 2020 from across the globe, including 250 in the UAE.  The report explores the impact of cyberattacks and breaches on organisations and details how security teams are adapting to these challenges.  “The race to adopt cloud technology since the start of the pandemic has created a once-in-a-generation chance for business leaders to rethink their approach to cybersecurity,” said Rick McElroy, Principal Cybersecurity Strategist, VMware.

Link: https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/80-of-uae-organisations-experienced-cyberattacks-targeting-remote-workers

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.

LINK: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/who-will-win-the-great-wfh-tug-of-war-b9lszjz3q

From UK Guardian: Switch to more home working after Covid ‘will make gender inequality worse’

Date: June 19, 2021

From the Guardian UK: 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.

LINK: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jun/19/switch-to-more-home-working-after-covid-will-make-gender-inequality-worse

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.

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.

LINK: https://www.economist.com/business/2021/06/19/how-to-pick-the-best-days-to-work-from-home?

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.

Link: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2021/06/18/deloitte-tells-staff-work-home-forever/ 

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.

LINK: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9701821/Switch-working-home-cost-Treasury-32BILLION-year.html

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.

LINK: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jun/18/workers-must-be-given-right-to-do-jobs-from-home-says-labour

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.

LINK: https://www.cityam.com/deloitte-tells-staff-they-can-work-from-home-forever/?

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.

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jun/17/ministers-will-not-tell-workers-to-return-to-office-when-lockdown-ends

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.

Link: https://institute.global/policy/anywhere-jobs-reshaping-geography-work

Condé Nest: What to Consider When Looking for a Co-Working Space Abroad

Date: June 14, 2021

From CN Traveler: It may be easier than ever to live the remote work dream, but many contemplating taking the plunge are also asking themselves how to do so ethically. When a large number of digital nomads descend on an area en masse, stories of culture clashes abound, and that influx of international cash does not always trickle down to local residents. In extreme cases, digital nomads can gentrify an area to the extent that locals can no longer afford to live in it—or even feel welcome to do so. “We have to be careful not to pose ‘us and them’-style questions when we talk about the work from anywhere movement,” says Lauren Razavi, author of Global Natives: The New Frontiers of Work, Travel & Innovation, who has worked across more than 40 countries over the last decade. “Rather than thinking of host communities as some mystical ‘other,’ people considering the nomad lifestyle should ask themselves how they can be a responsible and ethical global citizen in general, whether they are at home or traveling overseas.”

Link: https://www.cntraveler.com/story/what-to-consider-when-looking-for-a-co-working-space-abroad

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.

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jun/14/companies-keener-on-return-to-uk-offices-than-staff-surveys-say

‘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.

Link: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/interview-wfh-is-a-fad-were-moulded-by-science-or-god-to-be-together-says-canary-wharfs-sir-george-iacobescu-xkxmbk302

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.

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jun/11/goldman-sachs-staff-in-us-must-disclose-covid-vaccination-status 

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.

Link: https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/cliff-taylor-post-pandemic-decisions-needed-on-working-from-home-1.4590858

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.

Link: https://www.economist.com/business/2021/06/10/remote-workers-work-longer-not-more-efficiently

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.

LINK: https://www.reuters.com/breakingviews/wall-streeters-outpace-europeans-back-office-2021-06-07/

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.

Link: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/american-airlines-vaccinated-workers-hire/

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.

Link: https://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2021/6/4/22491629/apple-employees-push-back-return-office-internal-letter-tim-cook

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?

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-9661837/RICHARD-LITTLEJOHN-Welcome-House-Fun-hamstrung-selfish-refuseniks.html

From IndustriALL: 
Principles and guidelines on telework

Date: 3 June, 2021

This paper from IndustriAll Global Union on “principles and guidelines on telework” is likely to inform national/local union thinking on the issue and could also surface in discussions with European Works Councils. One of the basic demands of IndustriAll is that “Telework should be voluntary and reversible. Teleworking may not be suitable for all workers and for all types of jobs, therefore no worker shall be forced to telework.” We would point out that individual employees have never had the right to insist on where they work and that employers have always had the right to organise work, and where work is done, as they see fit in the best interests of the business. If “hybrid work” is built into a company’s future employment model then it can hardly be open to individual employees to “opt-out” and insist on the employer providing them with a 5-day-aweek desk in a centralised office.

Link: http://www.industriall-union.org/industriall-principles-and-guidelines-on-telework

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.”

LINK: https://www.cityam.com/exclusive-government-set-to-take-gentle-approach-to-get-people-back-to-the-office/?

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.”

LINK: https://www.reuters.com/technology/software-group-sap-adopts-flexible-working-by-popular-demand-2021-06-01/

May 2021

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.

LINK: https://www.rte.ie/news/regional/2021/0531/1225076-remote-hubs/

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.

LINK: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/29/business/economy/new-home-building-suburbs.html

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.

LINK: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9623481/City-dwellers-work-home-left-feeling-lonely-glum-new-analysis-suggests.html

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.”

Link: https://www.accountingtoday.com/news/kpmg-launches-relaxed-work-policies-to-combat-remote-work-fatigue

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.

LINK: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-26/walls-move-and-apps-rule-as-workers-return-to-weirder-offices?sref=0XF2cxJu

 

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.

LINK: https://news.industriall-europe.eu/Article/612

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

Link: https://www.osborneclarke.com/insights/international-employment-law-coffee-break/

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.

Link: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-05-26/return-to-work-what-s-the-point-of-the-office-again?

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.

LINK: https://www.ft.com/content/4743268e-e903-4822-acba-c22495367bbf

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.

LINK: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/markets/article-9610341/Takeaway-pay-menu-employers-eye-new-perk.html

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.

LINK: https://nltimes.nl/2021/05/20/workers-legal-right-answer-work-calls-hours-pvda

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.

LINK: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/covid-cuts-spell-the-end-of-business-trips-and-expenses-8w6k98lnt

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

LINK: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2021/05/18/standard-life-asks-staff-monitor-carbon-emissions-working-home/

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.

Full Report: http://whitakerinstitute.ie/Remote-Working-National-Survey-Report.pdf.

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.

LINK: https://www.uniglobalunion.org/news/first-global-analysis-covid-19-support-workers-ranks-181-governmental-responses-pandemic-finds

From McKinsey: The future of work: Understanding what’s temporary and what’s transformative

Date: May 17, 2021

COVID-19 has accelerated changes to the nature of work. It is important, however, to recognize that the two major questions organizations must articulate remain the same as before the pandemic: “How do we make money?” and “How is the work done?” What has changed are the ways in which organizations can and should answer these questions.  Our research and client work point to three key areas that organizations must clearly evaluate as they seek not only to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis but thrive in the post-pandemic world. These represent three levels of depth that companies must build their strategy around by accounting for the changes to the nature of their work.

Link: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-organization-blog/four-ways-communications-can-engage-employees-on-the-return-to-workplace-journey

From 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.

Link: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/what-executives-are-saying-about-the-future-of-hybrid-work?

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.”

Link: https://www.ibec.ie/new-ibec-research-reveals-business-expectations-for-return-to-workplaces

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.

LINK: http://www.industriall-union.org/report-why-telework-needs-institutional-regulation-and-collective-bargaining

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.

LINK: https://www.ft.com/content/ce81651a-7451-4781-a9b8-85c96f2c5be0

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.”

Link: https://www.ft.com/content/c113f86b-fbe3-4ed4-b39a-359ad57d72b8

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.

Link: www.dailymail.co.uk/Women-suffer-office-Aviva-insurance-warns.html

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.

Link: https://www.ft.com/content/df0646fa-3ed6-4126-9819-ddbeb1948916

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.

Link: https://www.cityam.com/booking-com-ceo-business-travel-will-never-recover-to-pre-covid-levels/

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.”

Link: https://www.ft.com/content/a7743cf6-d473-432f-8292-201b5e5d6f1e

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. 

Link: www.cityam.com/jp-morgans-uk-staff-set-to-return-to-office-from-next-month/

THE FT: 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.

Link: https://www.ft.com/content/547a4dc2-e11b-4e8f-b526-cbf135ba7b4d

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.

Link: www.cityam.com/boris-cities-will-bustle-once-again-once-wfh-guidance-is-amended

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.

Link: https://www.ft.com/content/b0dcaf74-9428-4f64-84f2-41b001e1e311

UK Times: 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.

Link: /www.thetimes.co.uk/heading-to-the-office-let-the-backstabbing-begin-w3vrs5kt2

From McKinsey: The Great Exhaustion.

Date: May 9th, 2021

One thing that burned-out employees have in common—leaders who have yet to get specific about the future of hybrid work. Click link below:

mckinsey.com/our-insights/five-fifty-the-great-exhaustion?

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.

Link: www.cityam.com/square-miles-largest-employers-embrace-hybrid-working

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

Tweet: https://twitter.com/chris_herd/status/1391021349318111233?s=20

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.”

Link: www.washingtonpost.com/media/washingtonian-strike/

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.

Link: www.bbc.com/news/business-56993886

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.

Link: cityam.com/no-full-time-return-to-the-office

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. 

Link: www.reuters.com/pmg-uk-staff-work-offices-up-four-days-fortnight

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.”

https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/jpmorgan-ceo-jamie-dimon-is-done-with-zoom-meetings

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.”

Link: www.telegraph.co.uk/kpmg-staff-get-one-afternoon-week/

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.

Link: www.reuters.com/ericsson-launch-subscription-service-remote-office-2021-05-04/

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.

Link: www.lawscot.org.uk/businesses-seek-smaller-best-connected-offices-report/

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.”

Link: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-norway-swf-idUSKBN2CK0TU

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.”

LINK: https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/understanding-the-pandemics-impact-on-working-women.html

April 2021

From NERB: Why Working from Home Will Stick

Dated: April, 2021

In this working paper for the US National Bureau of Economic Research, Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom and Steven J Davis describe the pandemic as “a mass social experiment in working from home”. They find the practice increased from 5% to 50% in the US and expect it will settle at about 20% after the crisis.

Link: https://www.nber.org/papers/w28731

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: 

Link:  www.advanced-workplace.com/awa/research/whitepapers/

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.”

Link: www.cityam.com/clifford-chance-to-work-minimum-of-50-per-cent-in-the-office-post-pandemic/

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.

Link: www.standard.co.uk/comment/post-covid-economy-problems-politicians

From McKinsey: Out of the shadows: Sustainably improving workplace mental health

Date: 9 April, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated preexisting workplace mental health challenges, creating a new imperative for leaders to take a holistic and methodical approach to workplace mental health.

Link: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/asia-pacific/out-of-the-shadows-sustainably-improving-workplace-mental-health?cid=soc-web#