It marks a new departure for the Government as the wearing of masks is to become optional, with the decision left to the “common sense” of people and the decisions of businesses and local authorities. The decision has divided the country, leading to the PM since then striking a more cautious note. According to an Opinium poll in last Sunday’s Observer, only 31% support the decision to go ahead with Freedom Day on 19 July while 50% would prefer it to be pushed back until later in the year. There are going to be some difficult situations, as 66% say they will still wear masks in shops, while 23% say they will not.
While health and transport workers have been in their workplace throughout the pandemic and hospitality workers have been back for some weeks now – most professional workers have spent very little time in the office over the past 16 months. We’re already seeing a vast range of approaches to returning to the workplace.
Last week Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick told Bloomberg that it’s time for frontline staff to get back to the office and that young bankers who decide they’re working too hard should choose another living. Earlier in the year Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon described working from home as an “aberration”.
But most companies, in my experience, find themselves in a more nuanced position and that relations with their employees require empathy and sensitivity. That’s because shareholder expectations are rising but in reality many employees feel exhausted and London and New York are experiencing a tidal wave of resignations.
Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University christened what’s happening as “the great resignation” in an interview with Bloomberg in May and much New York conversation has focused on this in early Summer. We see the same trend currently sweeping London and the reasons are varied, though part of the story is that many professionals feel burnt out after over a year of working from home. The same Microsoft survey found that 54% feel over-worked and 39% say they are exhausted.
We're using these principles to guide our own return to the office and we're advising several senior leadership teams. We're also sharing and swapping ideas with other organisations.