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In post-pandemic Britain most employees won’t get to choose where and when they work

Working in pyjamas

In the past I’ve criticised bosses for jumping on the ‘work from home’ bandwagon in the hope of saving a few quid on running offices and other workplaces.

But there’s another troubling sentiment I’m picking up that’s rumbling away among employees across the country who don’t want to come back to their workplace.

What I’m getting from other business owners and from people messaging me on social media isn’t just a begrudging resignation from members of the nation’s workforce that a year of working at home in their pyjamas is coming to an end, but a more militant attitude that in future they, not their employers, should have the right to choose when and where they work.

The reality of the situation is that if you are employed by a company that needs and wants you to be at a certain place, for a certain period of time, on specific days, then that’s the deal.

Otherwise, why would anyone even bother to start a business and employ people if they don’t have the power to organise their workforce in the way they think is most efficient? If people don’t like the conditions on offer they should look elsewhere for work, or take the leap into self-employment and become their own bosses.

The truth of the matter is that people are more creative and productive when they are in the company of others (and if you don’t want to take my word for it, ask the chancellor, Rishi Sunak), and despite all the rubbish some bosses have been spouting about remote working for most it has been a second-best standby measure that was necessary during the pandemic.

Some will disagree, and I wish them all the luck with their new models, but believe me most companies have already put together plans to get the majority of their staff back to centralised working as soon as is practical.

This is not only a business priority, but it’s also about having a functioning society. If everyone got to choose when they worked the place would fall apart. What of shop workers, police, those in the NHS? Should they have the same rights to dictate when they show up, and where they walk the beat or tend to patients?

The idea that people who work in predominately white-collar office jobs should be allowed to stay at home and work is in many ways an entitled and selfish one. They want to stay at home on the same wage, be kept safe from crime, have access to local medical services when they are unwell, and head to the supermarket for the weekly shop whenever they feel like it.

The reality of the world of work is that it takes place somewhere other than the home. People do work better in each other’s company, and there is a productivity advantage to businesses when they are organised in this way. Otherwise, why would a UK company pay UK labour prices to local staff to work in an office, when they could get the same result for half the money in Mumbai?

So those who want to permanently work at home need to understand that they are now in direct competition with workers from across the globe, many of whom are prepared to do their jobs for far less money. And that seems to me like a recipe for unemployment, which is why it won’t happen.

Charlie Mullins

Charlie Mullins is the archetypal entrepreneur having started Pimlico Plumbers from scratch and building it into a multi-million pound enterprise. Always opinionated and often controversial, Charlie’s common sense attitude has earned him a reputation as one of the UK’s most outspoken entrepreneurs.

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