Rishi Sunak has warned young people that their careers may suffer if they continue to work from home. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would not have had such success in his professional life if it had not been for the benefits he gained from working within an office environment. His views come as many companies commit to employing a hybrid approach of remote and office work as government restrictions ease.
Sunak shared with LinkedIn News that if he had began his career in a virtual capacity, he would not have been able to create the network he has now, nor have developed the “strong relationships” he values. This led him to state, “for young people in particular, being able to physically be in an office is valuable”. Sunak once worked at the banking giant Goldman Sachs, of which’s boss, David Solomon, has said he is concerned about how to train the next generation of bankers if they are working from home. As well as this, according to Morgan Stanley’s chief executive, it is learning the “soft cues that go with having a successful career” which people are missing out on as a result of working from home.
However, many firms have taken a different view on the potential return of workers to the office. The CEO of Unilever, which has 149,000 employees across the world, has said the company will never expect its staff to return to the office five days a week, calling the orthodox approach to the workplace “very old-fashioned”. When massive companies like Unilever make this commitment, it is clear the trend will be followed by many more across various industries, allowing for more flexibility amongst staff.
The Adecco Group UK and Ireland found 77% of UK employees believe a mix of office-based and remote working is the best approach to work post-Covid. Whilst Sunak believes working from home may damage careers, it is evident the majority of people feel that spending more time outside of the office will benefit their life. The success of working from home during the pandemic has created a shift in employee’s expectations of what their work-life balance can look like.
A hybrid approach to work may also allow for greater gender equality within professional environments, with women more likely to take a back step after starting a family compared to their male counterparts. Remote working, therefore, might give women who do take on a disproportionate amount of responsibility in the home the opportunity to be able to continue to develop their careers whilst looking after children. This may have been otherwise impossible if they were needed in the office five days a week.
The need for companies to introduce remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic has also given employers a newfound level of confidence in employees’ ability to work hard at home. Those who have faced job discrimination in the past due to accessibility issues in an office environment will hopefully now be given the trust and resources to be able to work remotely, creating more diversity and inclusivity in the professional world.
Whilst Sunak’s concerns are shared by many, a new world is upon us in which people will hopefully be able to value their mental health as much as they do their career.