Hybrid headaches: companies grapple with new ways of working

Updates on the economic impact of the coronavirus

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Good evening from London, where our newsroom is a little busier than usual, as we take a look at one of the hottest topics for our readers and the companies they work for: The Return in the office.

BEIS, the UK Department for Business, is releasing a consultation paper tomorrow on new workers’ rights to ask for flexible hours on their first day on the job.

The paper, which will cover part-time work, homework and job sharing, comes as companies begin to tackle the logistical challenges created by new hybrid arrangements.

Businesses need to figure out how to get teams to the office at the same time and in sync with overlapping departments, while workers worry about more pressing issues like “What if I forget my phone charger?” “” And “Do I really have to keep lugging around this heavy laptop?” As a recent Microsoft report put it: “Most organizations are unprepared. Hybrid work is difficult.

“The only way to know what’s going to work is to pilot things, to experiment,” argues an executive from Tate & Lyle, the food group. “People are looking for cookie-cutter approaches -” Is it two days, is it three [in the office]? What is the magic number? ‘ People are tearing their hair out. “

Human resources departments are in uncharted territory, especially given the increased bargaining power of workers in times of staff shortages. Should companies come to terms with more of their employees working from home? And if they want their workers back, how should they go about it – with the carrot or the stick?

Some companies offer better-designed treats and spaces to make work more fun and engaging. “You can’t expect to force people back to the office, you have to provide a hook,” says an executive at a real estate group.

Meanwhile, back in our London press room, there seems to be at least anecdotal evidence that the carrot (cake) and stick approach is paying off.

Read more in our special report: The future of the workplace

What does your company offer to get you back to the office? We would love to hear from you via [email protected]

Latest news

For the latest updates on coronaviruses, visit our live blog

Good to know: the economy

Investors will closely monitor US Federal Reserve statement (2 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. London) for clues as to when it may start to “scale back” its pandemic support measures. Our Chief Economic Commentator Martin Wolf examines the dilemma everyone faces central banks, arguing that the exceptional policies of 2020 can no longer be justified.

The gas price crisis (see last issue) shows no signs of easing. The UK’s carbon dioxide shortage is spreading to Europe; British Steel warned that electricity prices were “out of control” making it impossible to produce steel at certain times of the day; and the International Energy Agency urged Russia to increase gas supplies to Europe. The news was better for the food industry, as the UK agreed to (temporarily) bail out one of the closed fertilizer factories owned by CF Industries that produce a large chunk of the country’s CO2 supplies.

Latest for UK / Europe

Benefit cuts combined with soaring energy and food bills mean Poorest UK households facing a serious cost of living crisis. Consumer Editor Claer Barrett has some advice for families and small businesses on how to cope with the shock in energy prices.

World’s last

Pfizer and BioNTech said they would deliver 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccine via the United States to poor countries at cost, ahead of a vaccine summit led by President Joe Biden today. Only 2% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

The OECD, echoed by the Vice-President of the European Central Bank, issued a new warning on the risks of rising inflation. The OECD now expects price increases to be significantly higher in 2021 and 2022 than previously anticipated.

Consumer inflation bar graph (annual rate,%) showing that the OECD inflation forecast for 2021 has risen sharply since June

Covid-19 epidemics due to low vaccination rates are slowing the recovery in some Southeast Asian countries. The Asian Development Bank lowered its growth forecasts for Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam while raising its forecasts for China, Taiwan and South Korea.

There was more encouraging news from a UN report that said investment in innovation increased last year despite (or because of) the pandemic, with governments and businesses increasing their spending on R&D. South Korea first joined Switzerland, Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom in the top five with four other Asian economies in the top 15: Singapore (eighth), China (12th), Japan (13th) and Hong Kong (14th).

Namely: company

Lack of truck drivers is already expected to disrupt Christmas deliveries, but new EU labor rules for commercial transport (which will also apply to the UK) could worsen the crisis next year. Meanwhile, economists say the end of leave in the UK next week will not help solve the country’s labor shortages.

A wave to come debut on the stock market will test whether investor appetite for new technologies can outweigh recent concerns about the strength of the economic recovery. Almost 300 companies have gone public in the United States this year, with the total amount of funds raised already 40% higher than in all of 2020.

The world of work

A survey of UK senior executives shared with the FT shows that 70 percent are concerned about legal risks of discrimination on the basis of vaccination status. “Employers are in a very delicate balance between respecting everyone’s right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated and the safety of the entire workforce,” said a legal expert.

Could labor shortage to heal by replacing workers with robots? The surge in online shopping spurred by the pandemic has accelerated automation, with warehouses around the world expected to invest $ 36 billion this year, up 20% from 2020. Amazon (unsurprisingly) is leading the way: one estimate puts the company’s direct labor cost savings at $ 3 billion. –4 billion dollars per year.

Bar chart of average automation spending per warehouse ($ '000) * showing UK spending more on warehouse machines and robots

Covid cases and vaccinations

Total global cases: 229.5m

Get the latest global image with our vaccine tracker

And finally . . .

What better way to admire the view of one of the world’s greatest cities than from the terrace of a historic riverside pub? Here’s our guide to the best places for a drink by the Thames.

© Marco Kesseler | The blue anchor

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