The WFH bubble has burst

We would work over Zoom. We would all exercise on our Peletons. We would order in organic vegetable boxes, stream live shows, and network globally from our kitchens. At the height of the pandemic, with most of the major economies locked down, a group of work-and-live-from home companies boomed. And yet, right now that is starting to turn. The headlines might be dominated by stories of a stock market crash. In fact, however, something else is happening. The WFH bubble is bursting. There are a whole series of reasons why the stock market has turned very wobbly this month. Inflation is soaring and central banks, led by the Federal Reserve,

Lindsay Hoyle is right to give scruffy MPs a dressing down

MPs are making their way back to Parliament with an order from Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle ringing in their ears. In the post-Zoom world, they must smarten up their appearance. ‘Members are expected to wear business attire in and around the Chamber,’ Hoyle reminded them.  ‘Jeans, chinos, sportswear or any other casual trousers are not appropriate. T-shirts and sleeveless tops are not business attire,’ continued his memo. ‘Men are encouraged to wear a tie, and jackets must be worn.’ Good for you, Mr Speaker! Perhaps you could send a similar directive to the rest of the country too. After 18 months of working from home, it’s not just MPs who

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

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

Why I blasted my printer with a shotgun

What’s the worst thing about working from home? Surely it’s having to use the personal printer, which is the most detestable piece of technology ever invented.  We have the technology to print in 3D, and yet when it comes to printers in our homes, they appear to be virtually unchanged since they were first sold in 1981. We all have our tales of woe with them. I have many, too many for here, but doubtless they will be familiar to all – the unclearable paper jam; the paper jam that has been cleared but the printer maintains has not been; the insistence that the printer is not connected; the printer

When will Boris urge workers to return to the office?

One of the big post-Covid unknowns is whether people will return to big city centre offices or not. As I write in the Times today, the truth is that no one in government can be quite sure of what is going to happen. The Government does have some levers it can pull if it wants to nudge people back to their desks. At present it is instructing people to work from home, advice that’s not due to be reviewed before 21 June. There is also the question of social distancing. If the one-metre rule remains in place after 21 June, it will restrict how many staff any business can accommodate.

I’m imposing a one-woman trade embargo on China

Without making any efforts in that direction, I now know all about a certain telecom firm’s future business plans. My neighbours are working from home, loudly, with their kitchen windows open. I want to scream: ‘I can’t turn my ears off, and I don’t have a mute function!’ Call me old-fashioned, but if they continue to corporate grandstand at the tops of their voices during laptop conference calls without specifically telling me that everything I’m hearing is off the record, then I’m treating them as primary source material. ‘Guys, that’s confidential. Our ears only,’ one of them keeps shouting through her kitchen window. Why not close the window, as a