Move to hybrid working for accountant’s 17,000 UK employees suggests Covid has changed office life permanently
Workers at accountancy firm EY will be expected to work from home for at least two days a week even after coronavirus restrictions lift, in the latest sign of the pandemic changing office life.
The company, formerly known as Ernst & Young, on Monday told UK employees via video call that 17,000 staff will move to a “hybrid working model” that mixes work in the home and the office – as well as visits to clients – once social distancing advice is removed.
The pandemic stay-at-home orders have prompted many office-based businesses to re-evaluate their working practices. Flexible working is seen by many employees as a perk, while for companies it offers the attraction of potentially cutting office costs.
Some accountancy and consulting firms had started to shift towards hybrid working even before the pandemic. EY’s announcement comes after two of its other “Big Four” accountancy rivals also said they would switch to hybrid models. PwC in March said it would let workers stay at home for half the time, while KPMG this month said it would expect employees to only work two days in the office every week.
Hywel Ball, EY’s UK chair, said: “The experience of the pandemic has brought new perspectives to our people and our clients on how they manage their working lives.”
He added that he believed “there will always be a need for EY to have office space across the UK, but how we use our offices in the future will change with a greater emphasis on collaboration rather than as a place for individual working”.
The pandemic has had different effects on working patterns across different industries. Even in the middle of the latest national lockdown in February 44% of UK working adults left their home to work, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. That had risen to 62% of working adults by the middle of May.
In those industries that can offer home working the willingness to make a shift appears to be mixed. Google said it expected 20% of its staff to work from home permanently in the future, while social media company Twitter was among the first during the pandemic to say that employees would be allowed to stay away from the office permanently.
HSBC and JP Morgan in April both said that thousands of staff would work from home permanently, although Goldman Sachs, another bank, took the opposite view, encouraging staff to return as early as possible