House of Fraser owner scraps ‘unproductive’ Friday home working

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The Guardian

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has banned staff from working from home on Fridays after claiming social media posts showed they were relaxing during working time.

The retailer, which owns Sports Direct and House of Fraser, has asked staff to be in the office all week, ending a flexible working policy introduced during the pandemic.

An internal memo, sent by the company’s chief operating officer, said “Frasers Friday” had become “an unproductive day of the week”, according to a report in the Sun.

David Al-Mudallal reportedly wrote in the memo “too many examples of people or teams not being contactable when they need to be … and colleagues who via their social media profiles are demonstrating they’re not treating Friday as a working day”.

The “Frasers Friday” policy was first introduced at the end of 2020 as government edicts to limit the spread of Covid-19 forced millions of people to work from home.

The company – which employs over 25,000 people across its stores and two head office locations in London’s Oxford Street and Shirebrook, Derbyshire – is understood to have unwound the new way of working after monitoring productivity and reaching the conclusion that office attendance was more effective.

A Frasers Group spokesperson said: “We have an incredible workforce of dedicated colleagues, and in-person collaboration is key to how we deliver value together. We believe that we are all at our best when we work together in an office environment.”

The retail group’s insistence on office working comes as the government tries to force civil servants back to their desks and city centre businesses and transport networks struggle to cope with lower commuter numbers.

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Between October to December 2019 and January to March 2022, home working in the UK more than doubled from 4.7 million to 9.9 million people according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The City of London has announced plans to “repurpose” office buildings left empty by the pandemic into at least 1,500 new homes by 2030.

Almost a third of the UK’s office-based workforce are still working from home at least part of the time, according to the ONS.

Fewer than one in 10 say they want to return to their desks five days a week with hybrid considered the new normal, according to the government’s statisticians.

July 14, 2022 at 11:23PM Sarah Butler

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