More and more of us in 2022 are freelancing, adopting flexitime and splitting our time between commuting to the office and utilising our domestic workstations – aka a tea tray on our bed while still wearing our pyjamas. If the last couple of years has taught us anything it’s that Londoners are extremely adept at adapting to different work environments and still managing to get stuff done. Although social media was littered with stories of people boasting about doing sod-all for two years except ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ while allegedly working remotely and then somehow getting a massive promotion, most actual employees have been nose to the grindstone trying to keep everything going, dodging redundancy and trying to keep video meeting with dodgy wifi.
Then this week, news hit of an international law firm with offices in London announcing to their staff that they had the choice of whether or not they wanted to work from home permanently. Stephenson Harwood has more than 1,100 employees with its HQ in Finsbury Circus and has offered the option not only to its lawyers but other staff, both in the UK and in the majority of its overseas offices. This may or may not sound very tempting, depending on the quality of team bants are and whether a Friday fish fanatic has control of the office microwave but here’s the rub: anyone taking this option faces a 20 percent pay cut.
This has sparked quite a debate, with the firm’s justification being that most of those working remotely full time are not based in London, so contingent costs are lower and there isn’t the annual season ticket to factor in. Others have countered that by pointing out the savings that firms enjoy if they downsize their premises and office facilities.
When working from home was less common, bosses were often sceptical whether the drones would maintain the means of production without the panoptic glare of the open-plan office hub, but successive London lockdowns have proved that supposition wrong.
Clearly, Stephenson Harwood believes it’s workable, but is keener to promote a hybrid model where staff can elect to work from home part-time – if they come to the office fewer than three days a week they will be hit by the cut in wages. Interestingly, the firm’s partners are still expected to make their presence known on site, so it’s not ‘one rule for them and another for us’. A spokesperson for the company stated, ‘Like so many firms, we see value in being in the office together regularly, while also being able to offer our people flexibility.’
Rest assured that legally your employer has to check your contract very carefully before venturing into serious conversations about salary cuts, but for those of us that can, it looks like working from home has officially become part of our new normal if firms in the City are formally adopting it. Let’s hope we don’t have to lose too many £££s for the privilege.
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