'They just watch TV' | Lord Sugar's latest WFH rant is, ironically, full of lazy stereotypes

Lord Sugar's latest WFH rant is, ironically, full of lazy stereotypes

Lord Alan Sugar has branded people who work from home 'lazy gits' who should be sacked for not returning to the office.

The Apprentice star and business magnate posted a series of tweets claiming people were “watching golf and tennis at home” instead of working, and that remote workers should be paid less because of their savings on travel costs.

Lord Sugar’s rant came in response to a tweet suggesting that the UK Government was considering selling off some of its Whitehall offices, valued at £1.5billion, which have been left empty due to the number of civil servants still opting to work from home.

“Lazy gits watching golf and tennis at home while they supposed to be working. We the tax payer are paying the [sic]. Get them back to the office or fire them,” he ranted.

A follow-up tweet said: “@GMB [Good Morning Britain] are saying people who work from home should be paid more to keep warm as companies are saving money while the worker are away. RUBBISH they have to pay rent, heating and rates with or without a full work place. People should be paid less they are saving travel costs.”

Not surprisingly, Lord Sugar’s cyber-tantrum sparked a considerable backlash.

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One Twitter user wrote: "What about the people who work from home who aren’t lazy gits and do hours upon hours of unpaid overtime because they’re dedicated to their jobs and believe since they’re saving time on travel they’ll do the extra work to help their company? Answer that one."

Another said: ”It's amazing how far behind you are with current times, considering you’re a billionaire. People who work from home are more productive, which you'd know if you remove your head out of your backside long enough to see.”

Lord Sugar hit right back at the latter critic in typically hot-headed style, writing: “Listen scum bag most who work from home watch more TV than work. There are a few exceptions but the majority are lazy gits. When some of my companies recruit the first question asked by some applicants is "can I work from home" . They are shown the door”.

Sugar turns sour on home working

Lord Sugar’s scathing critique of home workers hit a nerve, but it comes as no surprise to most.

Earlier this year, he went after PwC, after the ‘Big Four’ professional services firm announced that, for the summer months, its staff would have the opportunity to take Friday afternoons off to aid in their wellbeing and contribute to greater flexibility in working structures.

The news, which was shared widely on news sites such as the BBC and The Guardian, stated that the firm intended to keep the scheme in place throughout the summer months, concluding in August, when a normal five-day week would be reinstated.

However, whilst many reacted positively to the announcement, it seems to have incensed at least one business leader – you guessed it: Alan himself.

‘A bloody joke’

Upon reading the news, Sugar took to Twitter to share his frustrations at both PwC, and the greater flexibility on when and where work takes place in the post-pandemic working world.

“This is a bloody joke,” he tweeted. “The lazy gits make me sick. Call me old fashioned but all this work from home BS is a total joke. There is no way people work as hard or productive as when they had to turn up at a work location.

“The pandemic has had long lasting negative effect,” he concluded, along with a screen print of an article sharing the news from The Telegraph.

Lord Sugar’s views on WFH shared by big bosses

Flexible working is largely the model that most firms have adopted since the advent of the pandemic. In fact, Growmotely statistics recently found that a massive 74% of professionals expect remote work to become the standard going forward, whilst 97% of employees don’t want to return to the office full-time.

Yet, Lord Sugar is far from the first business leader to denounce modern flexible working. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, for example, previously called the current trend toward remote working an ‘aberration’, stating that his company would return to the office full-time as soon as possible.

“I do think for a business like ours which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal,” he said back in 2020, as was reported by Fortune.

Other leaders seem to agree; a Future Forum (Slack’s research unit) study interviewed close to 11,000 leaders earlier this year and discovered that 44% expected to work from the office full-time in the future.

Is he right?

Despite Lord Sugar’s insistence that remote working will sound the death knell for the British economy, statistics have pointed towards the benefit that remote working could have on productivity. For example, 77% of remote workers say they’re more productive when working from home, according to CoSo Cloud research.

A Stanford University study also claimed that companies that allow remote work see an average increase of £1,627 ($2,000) in profit per remote worker. It seems that, both from the perspective of the employee, and overall business outcomes, allowing flexible working could be vastly beneficial.

How flexible working helps HR

Despite Lord Sugar’s disapproval, a wealth of data has pointed towards an increased and growing appetite for more flexible employers. It has become so important to employees they often say that they would be willing to jump ship if they didn’t feel that they were getting flexibility.

For example, EY’s 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey found that more than half (54%) of employees surveyed from around the world would consider leaving their jobs post-pandemic if not given some form of flexibility in where and when they work.

On the other end of the spectrum, employees are continuously on the look-out for employers that can offer them greater flexibility. Findings from The Talent Accelerator study, initially reported on by HBR, found that 88% of knowledge workers said that when searching for a new position, they will look for one that offers complete flexibility in their hours and location.

Additionally, the same study also found that 83% predicted that in response to the global labour shortage, firms will increasingly leverage work models to attract top talent, regardless of where they live or work.

And with flexibility giving organisations access to larger talent pools, this points towards another benefit that HR can reap around diversity of talent.

‘What’ more important than ‘where’

Noelle Murphy, Senior HR Practice Editor at XpertHR, previously told HR Grapevine that, in the post-presenteeism era, where work was done was far less important than the quality of the end product.

Murphy said: “HR has managed one of the biggest changes to working life since the industrial revolution with hybrid working, but it is still a work in progress. Challenges continue and HR will need to continue to address these, while ensuring this new way of working delivers for all employees – and that includes people managers and senior leaders.

“HR is clear that there is work to be done challenging the outdated view that presenteeism means productivity, and that where the work is done is less important than the quality of the work produced. While there are retention challenges facing employers right now, it is even more important that HR can continue to evolve and tweak hybrid working models to ensure they support and facilitate a culture of connection and collaboration that will deliver engaged employees and a successful business.”

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