As I entered 2022, working from home full time, I was struggling to spot the difference between January 2021 and January 2022. All the years are tending to blur into one. What I do know, is that even if the Government change the rules on 26 January so that the advice to work from home is removed, there are unlikely going to be swathes of employees running back to the office in the majority of cases.
The news that Google has invested £730 million on buying one of its London office spaces, is a surprise indeed. It comes at a time when lots of employers have come to the conclusion that hybrid working is the way forward, whether they like it or not, and this has led to lots of employers considering plans to downsize their offices, sell/lease spaces and/or renegotiate the terms of their office leases.
Will Google's investment be worth it? Will all of their employees welcome this news and their proposed three office days a week requirement? Lots of employees have benefitted mentally and physically from working from home and may be very reluctant to give up the freedom, control and flexibility that they've enjoyed for the past two years. As this article points out, office attendance is now the major driver of employees when they are considering potential employers and how good the employment offer is.
In addition to recruitment and retention issues, there are also important equality and diversity factors at play with the issue of where someone works. We would encourage employers who are implementing minimum office attendance requirements, whatever they look like, to think carefully about and document what you are trying to achieve by them. Risks of discrimination claims are never too far away whenever a requirement is introduced that puts employees in certain groups at particular disadvantages. For example, a requirement to work in the office may disadvantage women with childcare or family care responsibilities or disabled employees who have realised that they can manage their conditions much better working from home.
As always, if you need advice on flexible working, hybrid working or anything to do with where, when and how your staff work, do get in touch with our team.
Eventually, Google wants the vast majority of its workforce to return to the office for three days a week.