Broadband provider TalkTalk will operate a more flexible office model for its staff following a surge in productivity since lockdown, according to the chief executive.
Tristia Harrison added there are no plans to move to a fully remote operation, insisting meetings and the social bonding in offices is still vital, but wants an end to presenteeism.
She added that from discussions with other chief executives and employers, the majority believe that staff will never fully return to a full week of office work.
Ms Harrison told the PA news agency: “I had a group of 900 on Microsoft Teams and I told them I want a fully flexible trust-based culture.
“I explained as long as the output and efficiency is there and the business is operating well – we won’t change it.
“If we don’t see that output then we may have to be more draconian, of course, but they will listen to that and make sure that the outputs are there. So far so good.”
The boss also said firms demanding workers return to offices were being too short-term and need to focus on productivity.
She said: “The idea of nine to five, five day a week office working is over. It really is.
“You can’t imagine anybody returning to that kind of rhythm and I think what we’re also finding is that people are just much more productive. If they can be trusted to be at home, they can be super flexible.
“People are working hard and output is significant, and businesses are thriving.
“There is just going to be a change in the way people work. It’s inevitable. And I think people will start to return to the office, but I think no one believes we’ll return to 100% occupancy, five days a week, nine to five. It’s just not going to happen… and all the other employers and CEOs I talk to say the same.”
Since lockdown in March and the introduction of the furlough scheme, city centres and office districts have remained quiet.
Ministers and business groups are urging companies to get workers back into offices, but public transport data suggests trains remain at around just 30% capacity.
The impact on ancillary services – coffee shops, barbers and dry cleaners – have been severe although Ms Harrison points out local services and productivity have grown.
She said: “I think telling people they must return is short term. I understand it’s because of the short-term impact on economies and sectors that thrive on office workers. And so, if you’re in hospitality in those areas, it’s tough. That said, you can see retail and hospitality in, you know, more suburban areas thriving.”
Her comments come following a report by TalkTalk that found 58% of office workers found home working made them more productive.
TalkTalk is hoping to tap into the growing work from home market and is launching an at-home business broadband line for employers to install for their staff.
The boss added since lockdown, broadband usage has jumped 40% and remained at the same levels – with extra peaks around releases of Fortnight, Call Of Duty and other big-name video games.
Ms Harrison’s predecessor, Dido Harding, is now running the Government’s NHS Test and Trace programme.
Asked whether she would consider a move into politics and follow in her predecessor’s footsteps, she said: “I think we are lucky to have somebody of Dido’s calibre in Government, to be honest, but no I’m very happy where I am.”