Shift in working patterns
Schroders makes home working permanent
London fears it could become a ghost town (pic: Terry Murden)
Fund manager Schroders has become the first major London institution to tell its workers they will no longer be required to come into the office, even when the pandemic is over.
The FTSE 100 company employs more than 5,000 worldwide and recently overtook Standard Life Aberdeen as Europe’s biggest listed asset manager.
Its plan to change working patterns was revealed in an internal staff memo seen by the Daily Telegraph and represents a major shift in the traditional nine-to-five working arrangement.
The company has no plans to close its offices in London, though chief executive Peter Harrison said recently that the pandemic had accelerated the move towards more flexible working by 20 years.
Its decision to make home working a permanent arrangement could prompt others to follow suit.
HSBC has said just 20% of its 10,000 London staff will return to their offices next month. Natwest RBS was unable to provide figures on its office requirements in Edinburgh, London and elsewhere, though it has an ongoing programme of office rationalisation.
TSB told Daily Business earlier this month that it expects to confirm its office working plans next month. The majority of its office-based employees (c.3,500) are working from home and it is consulting with them on how best to return to offices.
Barclays boss Jess Staley said earlier in the summer that there could be a change in the bank’s office requirements, although he later rowed back on his comments.
Stockbroker Numis has told staff that Monday to Friday office working “will not return”.
Standard Life Aberdeen’s outgoing CEO expects its Edinburgh offices to operate at 40% capacity when staff return to their desks.
Keith Skeoch told Daily Business there would be a “different way of working” with “some teams in and some teams out’ into next year.
He added that he was aware of the “gloom” surrounding the property sector over the future of the office market.
Standard Life Aberdeen’s offices in Edinburgh will work at 40% capacity
Recent research from the CBI reveals that 37% of firms are conducting, or planning to conduct, conversations with landlords or managing agents to review their office space needs.
The Bank of England has become concerned at the low level of activity in the City of London, while some have seen the shift towards home working as an opportunity to cut costs.
The property market and businesses such as cafes and restaurants that rely on office workers are concerned that widespread adoption of home working will turn commercial centres – already suffering from the effects of online shopping – into ghost towns.
It also signals a reversal of “presenteeism” characterised by staff working long hours or turning up at the office when they are not required or should be taking time off.
Instead, offices are expected to become places where people meet for physical group interaction and meeting clients while day-to-day work is done remotely.
A transition towards home working would benefit the transport system which has struggled for years to cope with congested trains and roads. Fewer commuters will mean more comfortable and reliable journeys, with an accompanying reduction in stress and pollution.