'Changing our ways' | Deloitte bucks rivals' office trends with permanent switch to hybrid work

Deloitte bucks rivals' office trends with permanent switch to hybrid work

Deloitte is making a permanent switch to hybrid working, in a move which will see UK staff have the freedom to choose their own working patterns, according to new reports.

As reported by the Financial Times, the accountancy giant has embraced the working structure which was brought about as a result of the pandemic. The firm has told workers they can choose how often they want to work from home. This permanent decision follows a 2021 company survey which found that 96% of employees wanted the freedom to choose their working patterns.

According to the FT, the firm has abandoned two buildings which had 250,000 sq. ft of office space in total, downsizing to two remaining sites with 485,000 sq. ft of space for workers. No jobs will be lost as a result of the changes to office space, and employees who work in the two closing buildings have been moved to Deloitte’s remaining offices.

As reported by The Times, Stephen Griggs, Deloitte’s UK managing partner said: “We are constantly reviewing our office space requirements to reflect changes to our ways of working and our sustainability objectives”.

Increased flexibility

Deloitte UK had announced in 2021 that its 20,000-strong workforce would be able to choose when, where and how they work in the future.

In a statement at the time, Chief Executive, Richard Houston, reportedly said: “The impact of the pandemic has profoundly changed our way of life, not least in the way we work.

“The last year has really shown that one size does not fit all when it comes to balancing work and personal lives.

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“It has also shown that we can trust our people to make the right choice in when, how and where they work.

“Once the Government has lifted all of the COVID-19 restrictions and we’re back up to full office capacity, we will let our people choose where they need to be to do their best work, in balance with their professional and personal responsibilities.”

Firms hold opposing views on WFH

Deloitte’s views on hybrid working stand in contrast to those of rival firms. Earlier this year, CNBC reported that Goldman Sachs told colleagues at its New York City HQ to return to their pre-pandemic working routines - just weeks after only half of the company's 10,000 employees showed up to the NYC office when it reopened on February 1, after Omicron restrictions were lifted.

Last year, the firm’s CEO David Solomon called working from home “'...an aberration that we're going to correct as quickly as possible" during a business conference.

Despite Solomon acknowledging that many firms have made a success of remote and hybrid working, he said the practice “is not ideal for us, and it's not a new normal”.

And in late 2021, the FT reported that KPMG told its UK workforce they would be expected back in offices up to four days a week in the near future.

As reported by the FT, KPMG’s UK Head of Audits, Cath Burnet, told the 6,000 staff last month that working in the office was “vital to ensure we collaborate more efficiently, deliver high-quality audits, and continue to develop our technical and personal skills”.

However, Deloitte’s UK Managing Partner for Audit and Assurance, Paul Stephenson, disagreed, claiming that having auditors in the office more regularly would not necessarily improve the quality of their work.

“While there are elements of an audit that will happen in person, we don’t believe quality is impacted by auditors working flexibly and we have been operating in a remote environment very effectively for well over a year now,” he said.

He went on: “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and that’s why we want individual teams, in discussion with the companies they are auditing, to work out the arrangements that will work best for each personal and professional circumstance."

Another contrasting opinion came last November from a boss at Morgan Stanley, who admonished young bankers who aren't returning to their offices full time, calling them “nuts” and warning them their career progress is at stake.

The New York Post reported the comments made by Chris O’Dea, Managing Director at the investment banking giant, during an internal conference call.

According to the American news outlet, O’Dea said to young bankers: “If you’re 21 to 35, you are nuts not to be in the office all the time.

His comments are in line with those made by the firm’s CEO James Gorman, who previously said: “I fundamentally believe the way you and I develop our career is by being mentored and by watching and experiencing the professional skills of those who came before us.”

Work-life balance improves due to WFH

Research has often touted the benefits of homeworking, with a recent survey finding the work-life balance of Brits has improved during the pandemic.

MoneySuperMarket spoke to over 2,000 households across the country to find out how the pandemic impacted their work-life balance.

On a scale of one to ten, the results showed that the average rating for work-life balance improved by 0.4 when compared to before the pandemic.

Overall, nearly one-quarter (23%) of Brits agreed that their work-life balance has improved because they spend less time commuting.

Remote working can boost inclusivity

Data released earlier this year indicated that organisations that have committed to supporting remote work seem to be carving out more inclusive work experiences for staff members.

The latest analysis from Glint – which looked at aggregated data from millions of staff engagement surveys from over 600 global firms – found that staff members at remote work-friendly organisations were 14% more likely to say that they felt safe to speak their minds.

Elsewhere, nine per cent were more likely to state that their leaders value different perspectives, compared to peers in organisations that haven’t enabled remote work.

Glint’s study also highlighted that virtual work can create a range of opportunities that can help to strengthen feelings of inclusion among employees.

For example, the data stated that virtual ways of working can provide increased flexibility for those with caregiving responsibilities and bypass location bias among other things.

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