Dyson 'outdated'? | Vacuum visionary James Dyson swept away in controversy over homeworking

Vacuum visionary James Dyson swept away in controversy over homeworking

Is there place in today's modern society for a view that work must take place in an office building?

Sir James Dyson appears to believe so, and his response to the Government’s decision on make flexible working a statutory right for employees has caused an uproar within the industry.

Dyson recently commented that homeworking will: “hamper employers’ ability to organise their workforce...and generate friction between employers and employees, creating further bureaucratic drag”.

However, many leaders in the HR industry believe the very opposite is true.

Claire Metcalfe, Director of People and Culture for the MTR Elizabeth Line, is quite shocked at Dyson’s comments and states: “Good employers, who want the best from their workforce, have nothing to fear from increased legislation protecting employee’s rights."

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Of course, not all roles can accommodate working from home, but in March 2020 I don’t recall Britain becoming any less creative, competitive or industrious. In fact, what I remember is the enormous willingness, ingenuity and flexibility that people showed their employers to work in new ways.”

Dyson is adamant homeworking will ultimately devastate companies and continues: “Employers, who are charged with being competitive and developing their workforce, know the huge damage [working from home] does to companies and employees alike. If they can’t remain competitive, they will fail and jobs will go to other, more ambitious economies.”

Victoria Short, CEO at Randstad UK, does not agree. “We know that seeing our colleagues face to face keeps us connected,” she explains, “However, we must not underestimate the positive impact of that the option to work from any other space outside of the office has on your workforce.

"The cost of living crisis, coupled with a talent shortage, means that companies must challenge the notion that staff who work from home are somehow less productive. If they don’t, they risk losing out on attracting and retaining great talent."

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Reward Gateways’ COO, Rob Boland, suggests adjusting people strategies to retain top talent.

“57% of UK employees say that flexible working is now a ‘must-have,” he explains. “Employee engagement platforms that help employees stay connected and encourage collaboration, while importantly helping organisations build cultures of recognition and appreciation, are the future of hybrid and remote working."

Ash Pal, Chief Disruption Officer for Bloody IT, was one of the first co-authors a study on collaborative technology and teamwork. He also firmly believes flexible working is vital for employee retention. He notes: “A lot of organisations and leaders tolerated change during the pandemic, but they couldn’t see and count their assets and their feeling of control was weakened.

"In a lot of cases wanting to go back to the old ways is a sign of their insecurity, rather than as a result of a strategy. In a tight labour market, organisations are losing a potential differentiator because of that behaviour.”

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The option of working from home is here to stay and many newer companies have opted for no physical office at all.

Matt Monette, UK&I Country Lead at remote working unicorn company Deel, comments: “Dyson’s reaction perpetuates outdated and disproven myths about the correlation between presenteeism and productivity.

Flexible working is already marked down as an important trend for 2023, and Monette hits the nail on the head when he concludes:  “Businesses that do not adapt to current flexible working trends will be left behind.”

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