Companies across Britain are luring staff back to the office after 18 months of home working with a string of enticing perks – from free meals to cash bonuses.
Some of the most lucrative incentives are being offered by professional services firm PwC, whose 22,000-strong UK workforce are each receiving an extra £1,000 this month as they switch to a hybrid working model.
The payout is reportedly not conditional on coming into work two or three times a week but it was suggested to staff that they could use the cash to cover commuting expenses, The Guardian reported.
“How you spend it is up to you,” an internal PwC memo said. “You may wish to spend it on socialising with friends and colleagues, it may help with commuting costs or – perhaps reigniting a gym membership or a new bike to commute.
“However you choose to spend it, we hope it will go some way to helping everyone adjust over the next few months.”
Free breakfast and lunch
US bank Goldman Sachs is offering all UK workers who come into the office free breakfast and lunch – as well as ice-cream in the afternoons at its London offices. The Wall Street giant, which has 6,000 UK employees, has also waived gym fees and reopened its rooftop garden to staff.
Goldman’s chief executive David Solomon infamously called working from home an “aberration” that did not fit with the bank’s “innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture”.
Law firm Slaughter and May is also offering free meals to staff, and covering breakfast for in-office staff.
Meanwhile a minister has said he wants to “lead by example” in encouraging civil servants back to the workplace after he revealed that only a quarter of his team work in the office at any one time.
Nadhim Zahawi said that, while all of his staff were back to working in Whitehall, they operate on a rota system so that just one in four are at their desks each day, with the rest carrying out their jobs from home.
It comes after a spokesman for Boris Johnson said the prime minister wanted to see a “gradual return of people to the workplaces” in the Civil Service, outlining the “significant benefits” of office-based working.
The call to return appeared to be heeded by thousands more London commuters, with the capital’s Tube network on Monday recording its busiest rush hour morning since March 2020, according to Transport for London data.
Between 7am and 8am on Monday, there were some 277,000 “taps” in on the Tube, an increase of 24 per cent on last Tuesday, with a further 332,000 entries between 8am and 9am – up 22 per cent on last week.
Tube usage had been expected to reach 50 per cent of the pre-pandemic level by the end of Monday, while on buses it could be more than two-thirds.
Asked about how many of his own team had returned to office working, vaccines minister Zahawi told LBC radio: “People are coming back and my staff now, as of this month for example, have got something like 25 per cent permanently back in the office on a rota system – so all of them are back effectively.”
But he conceded that his Department of Health and Social Care office space could “certainly” accommodate more in-person working.
Put to him that workers were being encouraged to return to offices while at the same time the majority of his office was empty, the minister said: “We continue to make sure we get people back as quickly as possible, as safely as possible, it is the right thing to do.
“Look, we have to lead by example and I will take your message and personally make sure that we continue on with the staff, because it is important that people come back, and come back safely.”