Editor: Demanding flexibility whether we’re at home or in the office

This job can’t be done at home, it just can’t, you must come into the office. Those were the words of bosses across the country when asked for flexibility from employees, until the game-changer of 2020.

By Nancy Fielder
Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 6:46 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 6:46 am
Detail of an office worker working at a computer workstation
Detail of an office worker working at a computer workstation

Suddenly we were all forced to work from home and, surprise surprise, it wasn’t only possible, in some cases it was better and it certainly suited lots of people who didn’t want to be stuck in traffic jams queuing to get to offices for no apparent reason.

But now the government wants us all back where we used to be – and it isn’t going down very well. In fact, it is causing such a stir that Downing Street had to publically announce yesterday that there were no plans to cut the pay of civil servants who refuse to return to their desks in Whitehall. No 10 was forced to step in after a cabinet minister suggested officials who insisted on working from home could see their salaries docked.

The minister, not brave enough to have the courage of their convictions and be named, argued that staff who continued to work from home were receiving a “de facto pay rise” as they did not have any commuting costs, which was “unfair” to those going into the office.

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However the Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted that the Government was committed to a gradual return to the workplace following the pandemic. While ministers wanted to see more officials back at their desks, the spokesman said flexible working, with staff working at least some of the time from home, was “here to stay”.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told the BBC: “I think flexible working is something that is here to stay, but I’ve always said that I think it’s up to employers and employees to come to their own arrangements depending on the needs of the company and the needs of the business.

“I don’t think it makes sense to have a Government diktat telling people exactly how many hours they’re going to spend in the office and exactly how many hours they’re going to spend at home.”

So flexible working it is then – until those in power change their mind and tell us something completely different. The only reliable things seems to be the rate at which the government can perform U-turns.