Bishop & Sewell

The business pages are full of CEOs redefining how the post-virus response will place their company in tune to the new zeitgeist.

Alistair Osborne in the Times quoted Nick Read, Chief Executive of Vodafone: “The world has changed. The pandemic has shown how critical connectivity and digital services are to society.”

Really? Weren’t telecommunications vital before we knew about Covid-19?

Accountants BDO admitted it will be moving to a more ‘flexible way of working’ by allowing its staff to choose to work where they are ‘most productive.’

Accountancy Today reported that a staff survey BDO conducted revealed that 79% of respondents preferred to either work from home or have a hybrid working model after the pandemic. The firm said it will initially invest £8m into refitting its offices to create ‘vibrant hubs’ to support the new ways of working.

But will they be happy?

Another poll of almost 8,000 people, mentioned here, that almost half (44%) of furloughed facilities management professionals are anxious about their return to work, according to recruiter Randstad.

By far the most common concern is catching the virus – with 45% saying they are worried they will catch it at work while 33% are worried for their family’s health as a result.  One in every seven (15%) say they are worried by its impact on their organisation.

According to Randstad their poll reveals the ‘relationship between post-furlough anxiety and the failure to offer best practice HR,’ especially amongst newly recruited staff: “Normally the onboarding process would be reserved for introducing newly hired employees into an organisation. But these aren’t normal times and workers who have been furloughed for a year will benefit from some help integrating back into the wider company.

“It might be arduous for some teams who are spread pretty thin at the moment but while standard onboarding might be expected to last for a couple of weeks to be effective, post-furlough onboarding is much shorter.  Done properly, it will help employees feel more confident and competent when they get back on the job.  It’s about investing the time to protect wellbeing and to ensure a productive returning workforce.”

As was pointed out in CityAM recently, there is still an intriguing difference of opinion across the UK about where employees should work. Google is expecting its employees will be in the office for at least three days a week. Microsoft’s position is that it will allow employees to work remotely less than 50% of the time, but employees can also request approval to work remotely full time or to move to a new location.

KPMG has said that from June onwards, its 16,000 strong workforce will work at the office four days each fortnight, as the company moves towards more flexible working after lockdown restrictions are lifted. The rest of the working week, staff will be based at home or at client sites and will also be able to leave work early once a week, according to Accountancy Today.

David Solomon, Chief Executive of Goldman Sachs is of a dramatically different opinion. He has bluntly described working from home as an “aberration” that must be rectified, “as soon as possible.”

Good of him not to mince his words.

The challenge for any business allowing remote working, whether total or ‘hybrid’, is to ensure that the employee who wants to take up this option (or, indeed, a firm that wants to positively encourage such an option to reduce its overheads) has a suitable environment in which to work. The Covid-19 situation forced many to work from home whether or not they had the right set-up, all that was needed was an internet connection.

As employers that was clearly a decision that had to be taken in extremis. But for many it’s not sustainable. We have a duty of care to our employees to ensure that where they are working is appropriate. For our clients its important that our work is being conducted on their behalf securely and that phone of video calls aren’t overheard.

The list goes on to navigate these pitfalls appropriately – and continues to exercise the knowledge of our Employment team on behalf of clients.

Everyone’s business is unique and management’s decisions will undoubtedly not please everyone but in time where you can work will be a significant condition of employment.

The nature of business consultancy lends itself more naturally to a hybrid mix of working. It’s not surprising to learn that the accountancy firms, Microsoft and Google have chosen this flexibility.

I suspect many employers the same age as David Solomon may privately agree with him, on a personal basis.

However I think the approach of Jon Holt, Chief Executive at KPMG UK, quoted here, is likely to reflect the direction of travel for the majority of businesses, post-Covid: “Our new way of working will empower [our staff] and enable them to design their own working week. We have listened to our people and designed this strategy around our staff and how they can best support our clients.

“The consequence of the pandemic means we have a whole cohort of people who have never been in the office and never been coached face-to-face , we need to get those connections back.

“Our new strategy for the future of work will enable our people to reconnect and test our new ways of hybrid working. This is all about flexibility – we’ll continue to listen to our people and learn as we go.”

David Little is a Partner in our Corporate & Commercial team. Should you require any further advice or assistance, please contact us at

The above is accurate as at 25 May 2021. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.

Category: Blog | Date: 25th May 2021

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