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Rishi Sunak: Teams and Zoom are bad for relationship building

The chancellor says young workers should return to the workplace if they want to develop their careers

Rishi Sunak has warned young workers against falling into the trap of permanent remote working, suggesting that going into the office can be beneficial to building their careers.

Speaking about his own experiences with LinkedIn News, the chancellor said that working from home wouldn’t have allowed him to build strong relationships and argued that video conferencing is not an adequate substitute.

He also warned against remote working becoming the norm for businesses in the UK.

“I was telling them that the mentors I found when I first started my job I still talk to and they have been helpful to me even after we have gone in different ways,” he said, according to the Times.

“I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my internship or my first bit of my career over [Microsoft] Teams and Zoom.

“That's why I think for young people, in particular, being able to physically be in an office is valuable.”

Before becoming a politician, the chancellor enjoyed a career in finance, including working for Goldman Sachs.

He added that the government has stopped saying people should actively work from home, and has left it up to businesses to figure out the right approach.

In terms of a return to the physical workplace, Sunak said it will be gradual, cautious, and careful, but that there should be an eventual full return to normal working.

His comments echo the government’s longstanding messaging around remote working, with government ministers and the prime minister, Boris Johnson, periodically encouraging workers to return to offices.

In Autumn last year, the government embarked on a public messaging campaign for workers to abandon remote working and return to the workplace.

This was immediately prior to a significant rise in COVID-19 cases and a subsequent lockdown. This was largely spurred by the loss in economic activity due to workers not being out and about in town and city centres during the day.

Contrary to the government’s messaging, many office-based businesses, particularly those in the tech industry, have embraced remote working and are enjoying the benefits of cost reductions and productivity gains. This has been made possible due to an array of technologies such as cloud computing and virtual private networks (VPNs).

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Most workers, too, have enjoyed the flexibility that remote working brings, with research conducted in August last year suggesting 90% of Brits wanted to continue working remotely.

However, a significant proportion of office-based workers have equally expressed a desire for a return to in-person working, however, due to the benefits of in-person collaboration and the office culture that’s missing from home-based working.

It’s why many businesses are opting for a hybrid model, which borrows from both remote and in-person working to create a flexible approach that most employees can get behind. KPMG, for example, has offered staff a ‘four-day fortnight’ as part of its remote working strategy, while the Bank of England has told staff to come into the office one day a week.

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