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        Is the working from home tide turning?

        Is the working from home tide turning?

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          KMPG survey suggests bosses are turning against home working

          Today marks the end of the ‘stay at home’ messaging, with the lifting of some of the lockdown rules which have kept us housebound for so long.  For many it will mean a return to Covid-secure office space and it seems that this will be welcome news to some bosses who are increasingly turning against the idea of working from home.

          KPMG’s 2021 CEO Outlook Pulse Survey asked 500 CEOs from some of the world’s most influential businesses in 11 key markets (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK and the US) to give their 3-year outlook on the business and economic landscape. It provides a window into the views of CEO’s on the resumption of business growth, vaccine distribution, organisational risk and ongoing business transformation priorities.

          In 2020 the CEO Outlook Covid-19 Pulse Survey revealed that bosses were prioritising the stabilisation of their businesses amid unprecedented uncertainty, whereas the 2021 survey, conducted in February and March, suggests that executives have a clearer short to mid-term strategy.

          2021 CEO predictions have been predominantly influenced by the perceived pace of vaccination distribution with 90% of bosses intending to invite employees back in to the office when they have been immunised.

          Views on office space have changed dramatically since the 2020 report. In August last year 69% of those surveyed were looking to downsize opposed to just 17% in the recent survey. Additionally, just 30% of businesses will have the majority of their staff working remotely for part of the week.

          Staff wellbeing is becoming increasingly important and half of those surveyed said they would be expanding their HR resources to provide greater support to employees. 14% said they will be looking at shared office space to enable greater workspace flexibility for staff.

          Looking at business growth risk factors, there has been a dramatic shift since 2020, with cyber security perceived as the greatest threat to organisational growth over the next three years, rising from 5th place.

          Unsurprisingly, 89% of business leaders are looking to leverage the gains made during the pandemic in the areas of sustainability and climate change, with almost all (96%) saying they will be prioritising the social element of their ESG programs.

          Commenting on the report findings, KPMG global chairman and CEO, Bill Thomas said; “Before any major decisions are made, CEOs want to be confident that their workforce is protected against this virus. The Covid-19 vaccine rollout is providing leaders with a dose of optimism as they prepare for a new reality.”

          Recently more and more bosses have advocated a return to the office for staff recognising that employees are missing out on collaborating with colleagues and the spontaneous creativity that can only come from face-to-face interaction. Younger staff too are unable to learn the soft skills which can only be picked up in an office environment.

          Just last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak called on employers to end working from home as lockdown rules are lifted and get employees back in to the office.

          “I’m probably in the camp of saying that it’s good that people are in offices together,” he commented while appealing to bosses to start hiring and reinvesting as soon as possible.

          Recognising how critical it is for young people to work in a collaborative environment where they are able to learn from more experienced colleagues and seek out mentors, Mr Sunak added; “I think you can’t beat the spontaneity, the team building, the culture you create in a firm or organisation from people actually spending physical time together.”

          This signals a government U-turn on its former rhetoric and is welcome news to those struggling to work in unconducive home environments.

          Late last year Next boss, Lord Wolfson, slammed working from home as ‘joyless’ with Zoom meetings turning in to ‘one-way lectures.’ Head of the global investment bank Goldman Sachs, David Solomon, recently labelled working from home an ‘aberration’. Barclays boss, Jes Staley, has also denounced home working as ‘not sustainable’.

          The work from home tide does indeed seem to be turning.


          Images courtesy of Drazen Zigic & KPMG

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