James Dyson is right to urge us back to the office

I have almost no clue what office life is like. And I really mean ‘almost no clue’. Over several decades of professional work, my entire experience of office life consists of four hours working as a receptionist at a shipbroker’s in the City. I was so bad they sacked me by lunchtime: I didn’t even make it through the first day.  Chastened by this trauma, I thereafter vowed I would never do another hour of paid work in an ‘office’, and I have stuck to my principles. I have never been woken by a horrible alarm at 7am; instead, for all my life, I have heroically kept on sleeping until

Giving workers a ‘right to switch off’ could backfire

Millions of workers are ‘never quite switching off’ and are answering emails out of hours, warns Autonomy, a think tank. It suggests that the 1996 Employment Rights Act should be amended to give employees a legal ‘right to disconnect’. Unfortunately for Autonomy, Labour’s new deal for workers, outlined last month, somewhat stole its thunder. Spearheaded by deputy leader Angela Rayner, the party’s radical package of labour market reforms includes a default right to flexible working, new worker status for those in the gig economy and, of course, a French-style law barring employers from contacting workers outside strictly regulated hours. Nonetheless, Autonomy’s suggestion has received fawning coverage. The Guardian headline referring to

Google’s war on home workers was inevitable

Tapping out some code in the back garden. Working on a sales presentation while watching the school sports day. Or even better, traveling though a continent or two while still pulling down a ritzy six figure salary.  Over the last year, middle class professionals have bought into the Work From Home Dream – or WFHD as it’s known in HR circles – to create a working life that combines the best of all possible worlds. It is hardly surprising that so many highly-paid workers are happy to stay away from the office on a permanent basis. Forget Zero Covid. The WFH warriors will be aiming for Zero Flu and Zero

Rishi Sunak’s warm words won’t persuade workers back to offices

It will be better for our careers. We will network more effectively, spark ideas off one another, and learn new things from our colleagues, as well as getting a reminder from time to time of how annoying they are.  Chancellor Rishi Sunak took a break today from his usual occupation of dishing out vast sums of free money to remind us all of how much he learned from working in an office. Sunak is urging us all to get back to the skyscraper, shop, warehouse, or whatever, as quickly as possible. But hold on. Sure, there is nothing wrong with a few warm words to that effect – but we need more

Does ‘Johnson’s law’ explain why people won’t work from home?

Even after the one metre rule and the limits on numbers are removed on July 19th, we will not be back to anything approaching normal life. From self-isolation to travel we will not be returning to the status quo ante. Another way in which life will be different, as I say in the Times today, is that offices will still be nowhere near as busy as they were before the pandemic. Ministers will end the work-from-home guidance next month. But there’ll be no national ‘back to the office’ day. It will be left to employers to decide how much they want to push the issue. Most ministers think people won’t

Is working from home here to stay?

National Work from Home Day might not be a calendar highlight but it has undoubtedly taken on increased significance during the pandemic. Remote work is du jour and the big question now is: will it become the new normal? Take headlines at face value and we’re living in both a Zoomshock dystopia and a commute-free Shangri-La. We’re selfishly contributing to the hollowing out of city centres, and we’re righteously boosting the local economy. The same ministers now pushing for hybrid working to become the default unless employers have good reason to forbid it were last summer warning absenteeism risked making people more ‘vulnerable’ to getting sacked. We should probably be

Can Rishi Sunak get people back into the office?

To what extent do workers want to return to the office? It’s a question on everyone’s mind – none more so than Rishi Sunak. If Covid working habits stick post-lockdown, with a majority of people continuing to work from their living room, it’s not just the working day that will be fundamentally altered, but the wider economy too. The economic implications for the shops and services designed to cater to the office worker will be drastic: large parts of city centres and high streets may find themselves without customers, or enough business to turn a profit. But these were not the main points the Chancellor made in his interview with

Why we’ll soon look forward to a day in the office

The office, as we once knew it, is dead. Zoom has killed it; the digital genie is out of the lamp. What most of us didn’t realise before Covid – back in April 2020 – was that the closure of offices was final and that the daily commute may well be confined to the history books. Even when things return to ‘normal’ we won’t be able to uninvent remote working, and companies know it. In fact, many of them knew it before the pandemic struck. As one leading business figure told me back the early summer, Covid – by forcing remote working – allowed companies to activate a decade’s worth of mooted corporate culture change in just

Will the next U-turn be on face masks at work?

There’s a new trend emerging when it comes to Covid-19 policy: where Scotland leads, England follows. In recent weeks, decisions taken by Nicola Sturgeon have – eventually – been adopted by the UK government for England: first, the U-turn on how A-level and GCSE results would be attributed, and today another U-turn on face masks in schools. When Scotland announced face masks would be made mandatory for pupils earlier in the week, the government remained adamant that this would not be required in English schools. But within days, the advice quite substantially changed, now requiring secondary school students in local lockdown areas to wear them in the corridors and communal areas. The

Boris Johnson changes ‘work from home’ advice

Has government policy on going back to work just shifted? Today at his “People’s PMQs”, the Prime Minister was asked about support for universities and the social distancing measures that will be needed to make it safe for students and faculty to return. But Boris Johnson applied his response further than the university sector, turning the formal guidance – ‘working from home where possible‘ – on its head: ‘I want people to go back to work as carefully as possible – it’s very important that people should be going back to work if they can, now. I think everybody’s taken the ‘stay at home if you can’. I think now we should

Bad day at the office? Try these life hacks from the military

“Do not waste a single vertebra,” says Major General Paul Nanson CBE, in Stand Up Straight, his book of life lessons from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where he serves as Commandant. With a career in the British Army spanning more than 30 years, Nanson is no patchouli-scented shaman. His Sandhurst hacks have seen him through The Troubles, the Gulf War, the Bosnian War, the Iraq War, and the war in Afghanistan. So I reckon he’s reasonably well qualified to dish out advice. “I’m a great believer in healthy body, healthy mind. If you’re physically fit, you’ll be more mentally fit,” says Nanson, who takes his morning run as an