Global professional services giant tells staff they can work from home forever

Business

Global professional services firm Deloitte have told its 20,000-plus staff that once the pandemic is over, they can choose when, where and how they work in the future.

Deloitte’s CEO, Richard Houston, confirmed that all of its UK employees will be able to work where they think is best for them.

They are the latest large company to allow staff a hybrid working model, signaling the best working practices post-COVID-19.

Houston said: “The impact of the pandemic has profoundly changed our way of life, not least in the way we work. The last year has really shown that one size does not fit all when it comes to balancing work and personal lives. It has also shown that we can trust our people to make the right choice in when, how and where they work.

“Once the Government has lifted all of the COVID-19 restrictions and we’re back up to full office capacity, we will let our people choose where they need to be to do their best work, in balance with their professional and personal responsibilities.

“I’m not going to announce any set number of days for people to be in the office or in specific locations. That means that our people can choose how often they come to the office, if they choose to do so at all, while focusing on how we can best serve our clients.

““We want to ensure we keep the flexibility of remote working, without losing the connections and opportunities for collaboration that we need to make a difference for our clients, our people and for society. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to embrace the benefits from the last 16 months of being able to spend more time at home, while our people can be flexible in the way they work and reconnect with their colleagues and the office as needed.”

Prior to the announcement, the company sent out a survey to its staff members.

81% of respondents said they would be in the office for up to two days a week and 96% said they want to have the freedom to choose how flexibly they will work.

Industry reaction

Sridhar Iyengar, MD, Zoho Europe spoke to Business Leader on what this means for business productivity, protocols and new initiatives, with advice on how to deal with such a drastic long-term change.

To deal with the potential productivity backlash of having a dispersed workforce, all businesses planning on a remote working future must equip themselves with cloud-enabled technology that facilitates seamless connectivity and communication lines between workers, regardless of where they are in the world.

Long-term remote working on a national scale also opens up the opportunity for unique diversity initiatives via remote hiring, for example, and companies should invest in more efficient HR and teams collaboration tools to get a head start in enabling such social inclusion schemes. It can present flexible working opportunities for those who work better without a stringent 9-5 schedule or those who find traditional working hours impossible. However, we believe a balance needs to be met. Rather than absolute remote working, we believe the best business practice for both employers and employees is a hybrid model. Human beings are essentially social beings and for employee wellbeing, there should be some in-person interaction in the workplace, even if this is sporadic.

As for the debate around the danger of creating zombie towns if remote working becomes prevalent, we also see economic benefits being more effectively distributed across the country, with an opportunity for more rural areas to thrive as talent erosion to cities is reduced, because there is no need to move to be so close to traditional urban centres with the daily commute reduced or removed. Again, a balance is required here. Hybrid working models see economic benefits for cities, towns and rural areas with a fair distribution of economic opportunity. The pandemic has forced us all to consider a new way of working and living, creating an opportunity to shift socio-economic norms for the better good of society.

Professor Emma Parry from Cranfield School of Management, cautions companies on creating a two-tier workforce: “The hybrid remote/office working model, which many organisations are planning, could create a two-tier workforce where opportunities for pay and promotions are harder to come by for those working from home. Businesses need a change in mindset which dispenses with this ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude to managing people. Decisions should be based on outputs and outcomes rather that what managers ‘see’ to avoid discriminating against those not visible in the workplace.”

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