Saturday, July 31

Post-Covid work patterns should not be imposed by bosses with a view to costs | Working from home

TThe pandemic has sparked more than a few discussions about the future of work. Some employers have made it clear to staff that there is an office desk waiting for them when all lockdown restrictions have been lifted. Goldman Sachs fits into this category.

Others have embraced the prospect of new ways of working and have invested heavily in the technology necessary to overcome the barriers of distance and lack of information for those living in remote locations.

Among those ahead is Unilever, maker of consumer goods from Dove soap to Cornettos, which had been testing flexible working in all of its offices prior to the pandemic, and a four-day week at its New Zealand subsidiary. .

Across the UK, town, city and county councilors will be nervously waiting as the debate unfolds in the coming months. Employers are likely to adapt quickly to changing needs, and as they do so, the local government will clearly see how much is at stake. A widespread shift to home work will alter the dynamics of plans made in an earlier era, affecting the way main streets, homes, and shopping areas develop.

Until last week, there was a real prospect of ministers telling people to return to office as a matter of public policy. Boris Johnson had indicated that he was in favor of a new normal that closely resembled the old one.

This position seems to have changed. The government is now considering legislation to make working from home the “default” option, by giving employees the right to request it.

Hybrid work, where workers go to the office only part of the week, already seems to become the norm, at least for employees of large corporations.

The implications for people will be profound and long-lasting. The TUC has identified a growing divide between a privileged elite of professionals who work for large employers and may demand more flexibility, and those in blue-collar jobs who find that the only flexibility offered is working a variety of shifts on demand. your employer. .

In other words, manual jobs and the growing workforce of the gig economy will be even more closely tied to shift patterns dictated by their employers, and these changes will occur in the workplace. Flexibility, as it is, will be primarily to the benefit of the employer.

To make matters worse, the next steps will likely be taken by employers based on little more than instinct. The accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has announced a flexible working policy for its 22,000 UK employees which it said was a “direct response to the polls of our people”.

Talking to staff will be crucial as employers feel their way to a new framework, whether it’s based on an office work policy with occasional time at home, a default policy emphasizing work from home, or something in between. .

What is most likely to happen, and would be a further deterioration of Britain’s amateur labor relations, is a series of arbitrary decisions based solely on the need to cut costs and a short-term drive to increase productivity.

Most companies operate with profit margins well below those enjoyed by companies like PwC, and will place the staff inquiry in the category of “nice to have” rather than “essential”. Office workers may well be told to work from home, or the opposite, regardless of their personal circumstances.

The government could step in and emphasize the need to develop new employment practices in discussion with employees, rather than predetermined options dictated from above. The local government could receive more resources to help employers who wish to adapt.

Failure to do so could lead to a shift towards new work patterns that are wrong, costly, and become a source of grief for all concerned.

The sale of Channel 4 is an old replay that conservatives should not broadcast

The idea of ​​privatizing Channel 4 has been around for a quarter of a century and the policy was never adopted, so there is no certainty that the latest government review will produce a different result. But the threat of privatization clearly exists: a decision must be made by the end of this year, the Financial times has reported, and this time it feels more immediate.

For example, John Whittingdale, the culture minister responsible for broadcasting policy, was an early proponent of privatization. Furthermore, the government can now argue that, in the era of Netflix and others, an empowering dose of private property would be good for Channel 4 itself.

No one, of course, would deny that C4 is a strange beast. It is state-owned but commercially financed; proceeds are reinvested and it is said to attract a young audience. It is also true that the boom in streaming services will have affected its valuation: as a business, it is unlikely to attract offers of 1 billion pounds, the estimate at the time of the last revision in 2016.

But the idea that the canal is some kind of hapless innocent that can only be saved by the private sector must be rejected. After losses in 2019, due in part to the cost of relocating its headquarters to Leeds, a surplus is expected for 2020. A fifth of the revenue comes from its on-demand digital platforms.

The threat of privatization, then, seems driven by ideology. A private sector owner is supposed to demand a freer hand to run the business on a purely commercial basis, potentially threatening its expensive but important news output. And the broader danger is that Channel 4 usage by independent production houses will be diluted or lost entirely.

The case for privatization seems weak. The best solution may be to simply give Channel 4 a little more commercial freedom. A little biodiversity in the jungle of television is a good thing.

What future do the sports sponsors of the old economy have?

Every major sporting tournament has its discontent with sponsors, particularly with the beer and fast food advertisements being pushed to enjoy the healthy glow of the athletes. The late Euro 2020 now has its own mild controversy: Cristiano Ronaldo’s preference for water over Coca-Cola.

The Portuguese player’s move generated imitators: Frenchman Paul Pogba moved Heineken beer bottles out of sight at a press conference, and Ukrainian Andriy Yarmolenko and Italian Manuel Locatelli also joined. England expected their men to do their duty, and coach Gareth Southgate and captain Harry Kane duly intervened behind the sponsors. “It’s not something I’ve personally given too much thought,” Kane said, after defending Coca-Cola.

Sponsorship always has risks – ask Nike about Lance Armstrong or Tiger Woods. Coca-Cola has sponsored the Euros since 1988, much to the ire of activists. Since obesity is now a global problem, many experts, including, apparently, Ronaldo, consider that regular consumption of sugary drinks and fatty foods is incompatible with a healthy lifestyle.

The full list of Euros sponsors is revealing. The 2020 brands fall into two broad categories. There are old-economy carbon emitters like Volkswagen, which is gradually moving away from fossil fuels, long-haul airlines like Qatar Airways, and the inveterate Russian gas producer Gazprom. Then there are the tech upstarts like food ordering app Just Eat Takeaway, Chinese payment company Alipay, and video-sharing app TikTok.

The latter’s presence suggests that even a superstar of Ronaldo’s weight is highly unlikely to trigger a reevaluation of sports sponsorship. Live sports still attract large numbers of younger viewers and are the holy grail of advertising.

This does not mean that regularly evaluating the suitability of sponsors is not helpful. Brands don’t necessarily want to be the center of attention; they want to be visible, to be part of the furniture, perceived only in a semi-conscious way. We must not let them get too comfortable.

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