Unilever Boss Says Workers Will Not Return to Desks Full-Time
Unilever, one of the largest companies in the UK, has said their office workers will not return to working at their desks 5 days a week. The change has been brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, which is changing the way companies work altogether.
As a result, Alan Jope, the chief executive of the consumer goods group, said the company would begin exploring different working patterns. This after the company determined it could adapt and make large changes more quickly than they thought possible.
The company’s office staff has been working from home in most of Unilever’s main markets, which include the UK and the US. Factory workers in most of the company’s markets have been excluded from lockdown orders.
Jope predicts that most office workers across western Europe and North America will not return to work until April or later. And he said Unilever will use a “hybrid model” of working between office and home from that time. The company expects these changes will become permanent for much of its workforce, which totals 150,000 employees. About 7,000 of these 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.
Even so, Unilever still believes working in the office is essential. This is due to the “slow erosion of social capital” with employees working from home. The cause is the inability of employees being able to work face-to-face. In fact, many company leaders around the world have voice similar concerns.
Many large companies have decided to keep some of the new ways of working caused by the pandemic. This includes large tech companies such as Twitter, which has said employees will not return to working in the office. On the other hand, landlords of currently empty offices hope that some companies will return to their offices.
Unilever has already been experimenting with new working practices. In New Zealand, for instance, employees are trying a four-day work week. This makes Unilever one of the largest companies in the world to try decreasing working hours. It comes after smaller companies have already found that a reduction in the number of hours worked increased employee productivity and wellbeing.
Jope has seen how the pandemic has changed all of life for everyone. He says consumers stuck at home have turned to “e” everything about buying online. Spending habits have also changed, with many turning from more pleasurable items such as ice cream to more pragmatic products such as cleaners and groceries.
Jope said this trend will continue after the pandemic ends, with customers sticking with online purchasing. This is especially the case with the concerns for the environment and social sustainability.
Jope predicts the pandemic will continue to cause disruptions for Europe and the US in the first half of 2021. However, he said east Asian economies are going strong and have worked hard to bring things back to normal.
About vaccinations for employees, Jope said Unilever will try to get employees to be vaccinated. However, the company will not force its employees on this matter. Instead, those who will not be vaccinated will face certain requirements, such as mandatory testing.