The pandemic has changed many things; the new normal is strict hygiene, social distancing, and distant working. Remote work and work-from-home is here to stay, and experts believe that a full traditional 5-day 9-to-5 office day is a thing of the past. At best, companies will be offering a hybrid culture. Come to work some days a week; rest operate from home as far as possible.
Most big companies, including tech behemoths, are seriously considering adopting this model for the near future. Unilever, the British multinational consumer goods company headquartered in London, too is mulling the same.
Unilever’s chief executive Alan Jope recently said his office workers will never return to their desks five days a week, in the latest indication that coronavirus will transform modern working life.
Unilever is the third most valuable company on the London Stock Exchange. It has brands like Dove, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Marmite, Hellman’s, Knorr, Lipton and Persil.
Speaking at a Reuters’ conference, Jope said he did not expect office workers across western Europe and North America to return to work until at least April. He added that Unilever would use a “hybrid model” of working between homes and offices after that. Unilever has a staff of 150,000 global employees, 7,000 of whom are in the UK.“We anticipate never going back to five days a week in the office,” Jope said. “That seems very old-fashioned now.” He also said the pandemic had made it clear that the company did not need to be as hierarchical.
Jope also said that the company would encourage all its employees to receive the vaccinations for Covid-19. Those who do not will have to undergo mandatory testing.
The CEO said the pandemic had shown that an alternative way of working was viable. The company was able to transition to the new way of working quickly and efficiently.
In the latest CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey, remote workers have a Workforce Happiness Index score of 75 out of a possible 100. The report also found that remote workers are more likely to describe themselves as very satisfied with their job (57%), to consider themselves to be well-paid (81%), to say that their company provides them with good or excellent opportunities for career advancement (66%), and to note that their contributions at work are valued a lot by their colleagues (54%) versus those who went to the office during the pandemic.
Unilever has allowed most of its staff to work from home, though factory workers have been exempt from stay-at-home orders.
Jope also emphasized that the company was keen to pursue its office model too as working from home resulted in a “slow erosion of social capital” as it prevents colleagues from meeting in person.
There are concerns about how mentoring and innovation and teamwork will get affected once people start working remotely.
City center office owners and builders are definitely worried about this new turn of events as it will leave a lot of office buildings empty and drive down real estate prices.
Morgan Stanley predicted 30% of US workers would work from home after the pandemic.
Unilever had already started a 4-day week experiment in New Zealand, following a trend in the country being followed by several small companies.
The pandemic has affected the spending patterns of most consumers with people concentrating on groceries and home essentials. People have moved to e-shopping. Jope highlighted how the pandemic has raised concerns about social responsibility and the environment.
“People are e-browsing, e-buying, e-paying, e-media-consuming and we expect that will continue,” he said. “We can rely on people’s use of technology to stick around.