'Totally against it' | Alan Sugar hits out at remote work again - claiming concept is 'bad for morale & learning'

Alan Sugar hits out at remote work again - claiming concept is 'bad for morale & learning'
Image Credit - BBC / MGM / Warner Bros. / James Gourley

Alan Sugar has criticised the concept of remote working again, claiming it’s “bad for morale” and employees can’t learn while working from home “in your pyjamas”.

In an interview with BBC Breakfast to promote the new series of The Apprentice, Lord Sugar discussed what he looked for in candidates applying to be on the hit TV show.

He revealed his aversion to social media influencers before adding in his “nobody who wants to work from home” policy when it came to the new crop of contestants.

“I understand why [remote working] happened during Covid, but I’m totally against it, quite frankly,” he said, adding: “I think it is bad for morale, bad for learning. I know I learn from being with other people, in an office, and you don’t learn sitting at home in your pyjamas in front of a Mac.”

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Many people were quick to point out the irony that Lord Sugar was offering his remarks via a Zoom call instead of attending the BBC offices to be interviewed... therefore working remotely.

The post was also accompanied by X’s ‘added content’ caption feature which read: “Alan Sugar owns an extensive property portfolio which has lost value since working from home became normalised in recent years.

“Amshold – the group through which Sugar holds his property investments – made a £29m loss in 2023 compared with a £15.2m pre-tax in 2022.”

CEOs speaking out against remote working

Lord Alan Sugar has never shied away from the office vs remote debate.

Ever since remote and hybrid models surged in popularity during & following the pandemic lockdowns, the host of The Apprentice has frequented Twitter with outbursts about workplace flexibility.

In May 2022, he reacted strongly to news that PwC would give staff the opportunity to take Friday afternoons off during the summer months, to aid in their wellbeing and contribute to greater flexibility in working structures.

“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.”

He followed this up in September of that year by branding people who work from home “lazy gits” who should be sacked for not returning to the office.

He 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.

Other tycoons such as Tesla’s Elon Musk are also among the most outspoken critics of working from home.

Musk most recently branded the working model as “morally wrong”. And last October, during a panel discussion at the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Steve Schwarzman, the CEO of the investment firm Blackstone Group, stated that many employees have opted to continue working remotely because "they didn't work as hard, regardless of what they tell you."

He also attributed this trend to the financial benefits associated with remote work, including saving money on the daily commute, buying lunch and needing to buy less formal workwear.

On the same panel, David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, shared his company's approach to remote work. Solomon had previously criticised remote work as an "aberration" that needed correction "as soon as possible."

Does the office improve learning and opportunities?

Lord Sugar's opinions on WFH being bad for learning & development have also been echoed by several high-profile figures in recent times. Prior to becoming Prime Minister, the then-Chanellor Rishi Sunak, who once worked for Goldman Sachs before embarking on a career in politics, previously told LinkedIn News he doubted he would have done as well if he had started his working life virtually.

"I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my summer internship or my first bit of my career over Teams and Zoom” said Sunak, adding: "That's why I think for young people in particular, being able to physically be in an office is valuable”.

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Morgan Stanley’s Managing Director, Chris O’Dea, also admonished young bankers who weren't returning to their offices full time, calling them “nuts” and warning them their career progress was at stake.

O’Dea said to young bankers during an internal conference call: “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 earlier in 2021 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.

“You can’t do that sitting at home by yourself – there’s a limit to Zoom technology.”

Image Credit - BBC / MGM / Warner Bros. / James Gourley

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Comments (1)

  • Nigel Girling
    Nigel Girling
    Tue, 6 Feb 2024 12:55pm GMT
    I can't be the only one who is hearing this in the voice of CJ from Reginald Perrin. "I didn't get where I am today...". Lots of old-school alphas telling everyone else that they have to do things the way they did... despite the growing body of evidence that shows that they are already wrong in many contexts, and will soon find they are a lot 'wronger' for the talent they need to recruit in the next few years...

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