Thousands of office workers will continue to work remotely until fall, audit finds

Hundreds of thousands of white-collar workers will continue to work from home until the fall, according to a Daily Mail audit.

Despite the change in government guidelines in July, the vast majority of companies did not intend to force staff to return to the office when questioned.

The companies that work remotely are among the largest in Britain, spanning a variety of industries, from banking giant HSBC to energy company BP, telecommunications provider Vodafone, owner of British Gas Centrica and publisher Pearson.

Most said they would leave it to workers and managers to decide, with some considering reducing the size of their offices or introducing hot-desking.

This comes as it was revealed this month by research from the Center for Cities think tank that less than one in five workers returned to their desks after Freedom Day on July 19.

At home builder Redrow, some offices have even been completely destroyed and replaced with conference rooms.

And at Ocado online grocer, travel agent Tui and Pearson, staff will potentially be allowed to work from anywhere in the world.

Apple last week became the latest major company to delay its return to the office, telling staff – including 7,000 in the UK – not to return until next year.

This means that large swathes of office workers will still be able to choose their place of work after the switch to remote working during the pandemic.

But yesterday, business leaders and lawmakers warned that the trend is likely to deepen cities.

More and more employers are expected to persist with flexible working arrangements in the future (stock image)

Vodafone is one of those who does not rush to get all the employees back to the office

Vodafone is one of those who does not rush to get all the employees back to the office

Last year, chain stores appealed for help, warning that working from home had sparked an “economic emergency.” The bosses also said the change could lead to job losses.

And the government has been criticized for withdrawing her job from home counseling on Freedom Day, but failed to replace it with a recommendation to return.

Meanwhile, a Cabinet minister suggested this month that public servants who refuse to return to office be paid less than those who stay at their desks.

They said it was unfair that those still at home were given the same benefits as those who commute.

And Kevin Ellis, chief accountant of PwC, said endless work from home would “ruin the careers of young people,” who will miss the mentorship of older colleagues.

Firms that stick to remote work are among the largest in Britain and span a variety of industries, including banking giant HSBC (Photo: HSBC headquarters in London)

Firms that stick to remote work are among the largest in Britain and span a variety of industries, including banking giant HSBC (Photo: HSBC headquarters in London)

British Gas Centrica owner and publisher Pearson are among large companies choosing to maintain work-from-home levels

British Gas Centrica owner and publisher Pearson are among large companies choosing to maintain work-from-home levels

Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservative Party, said offices are essential to building the corporate culture and added that managers should tell staff “if you don’t come then go and find another job “.

He said: “It’s up to the management to decide how to get people back, not the government.”

And Richard Bernstein, a veteran city fund manager, said activity in the Square Mile still looked like “a Sunday” during the week, as many banks and financial firms avoided ordering staff.

But he added: “It’s difficult for managers because the deadlocks and uncertainty surrounding government guidelines have caused this culture shift and some workers may say ‘I don’t need to come to the office anymore, so why should I risk having Covid? “‘

Several industry leaders have expressed their support for office work as a way to strengthen teams, stimulate creativity and instill corporate culture.

However, their employees – who saved on travel costs and can now spend more time with their families – have retreated, leading many employers to change course.

Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservative Party, said offices are key to building corporate culture and added managers should tell staff

Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservative Party, said offices are essential to building the corporate culture and added that managers should tell staff “if you don’t come then go find another job “(archive photo of man working from home)

British Gas owner Centrica will continue to work from home

British Gas owner Centrica will continue to work from home

More than 30 companies polled by the Mail, together employing 600,000 office workers, said they would now switch to a hybrid model, where staff spend part of their week working from home and part in the office.

Only six companies said they would require staff to return in September and most of the time only two to three days a week.

These were BP, easyJet, Taylor Wimpey, Rightmove, KPMG and PwC.

Sir Douglas Flint, chairman of investment giant Abrdn, has voiced his opposition to working from home, saying it “turns into sleeping at the home office”, adding: “Life has to be compartmentalized”.

But despite this, the company has not set a date for the return of its 5,000 office workers.

And PwC’s Mr Ellis said staff can work from home for a maximum of three days a week starting in September because it is important to “observe, network and socialize” in the office.

The government has said it ‘expects and recommends a gradual return [to the office] during the summer ‘.

Additional reports by Mark Shapland

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