Hybrid shake-up | Nationwide orders staff back to the office, despite remote advocacy

Nationwide orders staff back to the office, despite remote advocacy

Nationwide Building Society has issued a directive requiring its 13,000 employees to return to the office at least two days a week or 40% of their time.

This move has sparked discontent among staff members, with some expressing frustration and disappointment.

The change in policy comes after Nationwide's initial embrace of remote work, as outlined in their March 2021 report titled 'The Future of Work.' At that time, the society unveiled a "work from anywhere" plan, allowing employees to choose between working from home or the office.

The company even hosted conferences with prominent firms, promoting the idea that employees would have control over their work locations.

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However, the company's attitude shifted in August 2022 when new "guidance" was issued, urging employees to "try and come in" at least one day a week or 20% of their time.

This adjustment marked a departure from the initial flexible approach and led to challenges for many employees, particularly those who had made life decisions based on the promise of long-term home working.

In response to what some employees perceive as a lack of transparency and trust, Nationwide has now issued clearer guidance, mandating that everyone should work in the office for two days or 40% of their working hours.

While the company maintains that "hybrid working is an important part of Nationwide's flexible arrangements," employees are facing the prospect of a significant upheaval in their routines.

The Nationwide Staff Union has acknowledged the difficulties posed by the return to the office, citing challenges such as employees having moved away from their base and disruptions to childcare arrangements that were built around remote work.

Some staff members have questioned the sudden shift in policy, considering it a departure from the company's earlier commitment to empowering employees to choose their work environment.

Is the future of work office-based?

As the debate over the future of flexible working shows no signs of slowing, Nationwide's decision highlights the ongoing challenges companies face in striking a balance between remote and office-based work.

Working from home is a modern phenomenon. Prior to 2020, working from home was the exception, not the rule. The proportion reporting that they worked exclusively at home rose from 5.7% of workers in January/February 2020 to 43.1% in April 2020, according to data from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data.

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However, whilst 58% of workers preferring to work in a hybrid model, only around 14% of the UK workforce are currently working from home more than they go into the office, according to ONS data.

Therefore, the tension between employer directives and employee preferences is clear. And, it underscores the continued turbulence facing business as the evolving nature of work arrangements in a post-pandemic world shift and adapt.

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