The irony is not lost. Zoom, the video conferencing company that is the bedrock of remote working, has ordered its employees back to the office. It is the latest in the long line of businesses that are stepping back from a fully remote workforce.
Zoom told the BBC that it now requires staff living within 50 miles of its offices to work at least two days a week ‘in person’. This is despite earlier promises that staff could work remotely indefinitely. Inconsistencies aside, you can see potential problems.
In a press statement Zoom said that the move will put the company in a “better position to use our own technologies, continue to innovate, and support our global customers”. It added that it “continues to leverage the entire Zoom platform to keep our employees and dispersed teams connected and working efficiently”.
In March this year the Office for National Statistics reported that 16% of the UK workforce continues to work entirely from home, with 28% working from home and an office. Hybrid working is more prevalent in London, with one in four of the work force working from home and an office.
Businesses are responding to the change in working patterns in different ways. Some are downsizing their office footprint and others, having often invested millions of pounds in their office footprint, are taking proactive steps to encourage staff back into the office.
HSBC, for example, recently announced its move out of its Canary Wharf HQ into smaller offices in the City. By contrast, JP Morgan in April this year said that it requires its executives to stop working from home.
At the same time, a survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), an influential body for HR professionals, in May this year reported that some two million people have left their jobs in the past 12 months to work for organisations that offer flexible working.
It warns that “stubborn companies face a staff exodus” adding that organisations which outline flexible working options in job advertisements “open up recruitment to wider talent pools and create fairer and more inclusive workplaces”.
A new right to work from home
The Government has promised a new right to request flexible working arrangements from the first day of employment, something that is currently only available after 26 weeks of employment.
The legislation hopes to provide job seekers with greater clarity on working arrangements, recognising that many job advertisements do not make it clear if flexible working is an option or not.
The legislation is expected to allow staff to make two requests for flexible working in any 12-month window and require employers to respond to each request within two months. It is also expected to include a requirement for employers to discuss ‘alternative arrangements’ to flexible working if a request cannot be accommodated and before rejecting it.
The proposals will also go beyond the right to work from home to include job-sharing, staggered hours and flexitime.
The Labour Party has said it will go further if elected to lead the country following a general election.
It has suggested it will make working from home a ‘legal right’ and the ‘default option’ from day one.
Its proposals promise a ‘new deal for working people’ that may include compressed working hours, staggered working hours, the ability to fit work around childcare or caring responsibilities, and a new right to switch off.
Employers are likely to continue to face considerable challenges attracting and retaining staff if they choose to adopt rigid one-sizes-fits-all workplace policies. Listening, engaging and working with employees to find an approach that works for all parties is perhaps the best approach.
Contact our Employment Solicitors
Rhian Radia is a Partner and Head of the Bishop & Sewell Employment team. For initial advice or to arrange a meeting the Employment team, please email email@example.com or call on 020 7631 4141
The above is accurate as at 26 July 2023. The information above may be subject to change.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.