‘Freedom Day’ is approaching, though as I write it seems unlikely to be 21 June. A sure sign of this is the recrudescence of the ‘get back to the office’ lobby. Last August ministers told the apparently woke and workshy that they should return to their offices or ‘risk losing your job’. Last week it was the turn of ‘non-partisan’ thinktank the Centre for Cities, which reckons the five-day office week will become the norm again within two years.
‘Non-partisan’? Only in the sense that the centre does not seem to be funded by commercial property investors. Because partisan it most certainly is – the clue is in the name. Mainstream media rarely seem to apply the Mandy Rice-Davies test in such cases (‘he would say that, wouldn’t he?’).
That doesn’t mean the centre’s forecast is necessarily wrong, of course. But to me at least, it looks like a vain attempt to stuff the genie back into the bottle.
In fact, the centre’s own website gives the game away, admitting that ‘pre-lockdown working practices will change, with many people continuing to work from home for at least some of the week. However, this will not be a cost-free decision; many city centre shops and restaurants depend on custom from office workers and are likely to struggle if their weekday sales shrink’.
The obvious benefits to suburban economies – the owner of my local greasy spoon parks his F-Type Jag outside – go unmentioned.
As hybrid working becomes ubiquitous, as I reckon it will, a bigger headache for employers is that many staff will all want to come in on the same days (Tuesday to Thursday), thereby ‘shouldering the weekend’. But this ain’t rocket science. Different people will come in on different days for different reasons, and it is up to managers to coordinate that. Let us not try and make the adjustment more difficult than it actually is.
On a related note, the Gazette is keen to hear from small law firms – anonymously if required – if and how they are moving to hybrid working post-pandemic. Are you doing things differently from the City giants and, if so, why? We’d like to know: firstname.lastname@example.org.