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Rishi Sunak urges young people to return to the office

Written by Latifa Yedroudj on Thursday, 05 August 2021. Posted in Politics, Analysis

The Chancellor warns the young that working from home could harm their career

Rishi Sunak urges young people to return to the office

The Chancellor warns the young that working from home could harm their career 

Since lockdown restrictions have been lifted, many firms are slowly introducing workers back into the office over the summer months. However, some businesses have decided to go completely remote. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned that home working may hurt young people’s careers – and said that video conferencing is no substitute. 

The Chancellor told LinkedIn News he doubted he would have done well in his career if he had worked remotely, and cautioned against allowing remote working to be the norm. "I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my summer internship or my first bit of my career over Teams and Zoom,” he said. "That's why I think for young people in particular, being able to physically be in an office is valuable." 

Ministers have dropped formal advice to work from home and instead “expect and recommend a gradual return over the summer”. The government has recommended businesses gradually return to working in the office since restrictions were lifted on 19 July, and the Scottish government wants to keep employees working from home until at least 9 August if possible. Meanwhile, firms across the UK have begun introducing staff back to the office. Business services group Deloitte has been increasing the number of staff allowed to work in its offices from 30% pre-19 July to 50% and will keep to that until September. 

Businesses are being cautious, with millions of workers expected to spend more days at home rather than the office, and some ministers believe the shift may be permanent. NatWest said that it would bring back a small number of "priority workers" while Aviva expects their employees to work both in the office and from home. Accountancy firm KPMG has allowed people its staff to work completely from home if they made a request to their manager. Mr Sunak said: "I've spoken previously about young people in particular benefiting from being in offices: it was really beneficial to me when I was starting out in my career." The mentors that I found when I first started my job, I still talk to and they've been helpful to me all through my career even after we've gone in different ways." 

Some businesses believe that a mixed working model, also known as ‘hybrid working’, may be the best approach for young employees as it gives them the benefits of both working at home and in the office. Sridhar Iyengar, Managing Director of Zoho Europe, believes this approach will create a more ‘productive’ workforce by giving young people social interactivity while maintaining a flexible working arrangement. “Therefore, businesses should look for the best of both worlds with the alternative - hybrid working, which will see employees return to the office on a part-time basis, from as little as just a few times a month, to multiple times a week, with the rest of work conducted remotely,” he said. “This will have the unique benefit of supporting workers, particularly young people, who crave a return to in-person social interactivity, whilst maintaining the flexible remote working arrangement that businesses have grown used to. Businesses should remain open and flexible to individual worker needs in order to maintain a motivated and productive workforce, rather than apply a one-size-fits-all approach to working hours and environment.” 

With a hybrid working model, members of staff will have the option to choose to come into the office or work from home. However, Mark Sweeney, Regional Vice President in UK and Ireland for Citrix has urged employers not to bias employees who choose to work from home. Both office-based and remote staff should be given the same career and growth opportunities, despite where they choose to work. “Such choice will have an impact beyond the bottom line. Company cultures will be affected, so businesses will need to embrace the hybrid model of work as part of this new working model, allowing remote and on-site workers to co-exist happily,” he said. “Some individuals will not want to go to back the office, for a variety of reasons. As leaders, we need to create a culture that ensures people working remotely some or all of the time, are treated the same as those who go back to the office. My worry is that if we are physically connecting with someone in the office daily, our instinct may be to give them more responsibility, more opportunity, or more areas for growth, than someone who we haven’t seen in person for a while. This is known as ‘location bias’. Fundamentally, employees cannot feel that there is a requirement for them to go into the office for opportunities to be available – and organisations must make this clear.”

About the Author

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj has joined the Elite team to fully immerse herself in the business side of journalism, a strong passion of hers cultivated from young having co-run her mother's start up business since she was 18. Her interests lie in a wide range of subjects, including start ups, business, travel, and anything entrepreneurial she can get her hands on. She has worked for some of the biggest names in journalism including The Guardian and The Mirror. Follow her on @latifayed on Twitter for her latest journo rants.

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