Sunday Apr 02, 2023

Dyson tells many of UK staff to work in office even after plan B guidance change – The Guardian


The vacuum cleaner maker Dyson has told many of its UK employees to continue working in the office, claiming that large portions of its business are impossible to carry out from home.

Dyson’s billionaire owner, Sir James Dyson, has consistently opposed working from home and the company has stuck to that line despite the rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant, stoking concern among some employees.

All Dyson offices should remain open, according to an internal message sent to all UK staff last week after the prime minister announced the new plan B guidance advising work from home.

In contrast to lockdowns earlier in the pandemic, the guidance does not legally oblige companies to allow staff to work from home, but Boris Johnson said last Wednesday that people should work from home where possible as a precaution against Omicron, although he also said people should continue to attend work Christmas parties.

Dyson, however, said in the message to staff that “we fundamentally disagree” with Johnson on that issue, cancelling its own Christmas party in favour of a summer family event, and recommending that its workers avoid parties and events over Christmas where masks are not worn “to keep safe and protect your friends and family over Christmas”.

Employees at Dyson have expressed frustration with its policy on working in the office. One worker, who declined to be named, told the Guardian: “Since the summer everyone in the UK has been mandated to work five days a week in the office. It is as draconian as it sounds.” The worker said the policy went against the spirit of the new government guidance.

A wave of large office employers have told workers to remain at home, although some will keep offices open for business-critical functions or exceptional reasons such as for workers with mental health issues. The magazine publisher Future on Friday reversed its demand for staff to come into the office after its stance was revealed by the Guardian.

Dyson’s Brexiter founder has been a vocal opponent of working from home. In an interview with the Times in September 2020, he said: “Working from home doesn’t work. I only did it when I couldn’t afford an office or employees. People need to interact and exchange views.”

Dyson workers expected to work from the office include teams in research, IT, security, development, commercial and estates management, among other departments – a list that is thought to include large numbers of its UK workers. Dyson claims that the sensitive commercial nature of its work and the need to collaborate means office working is required.

While Dyson makes most of its products overseas and controversially moved its headquarters to Singapore in early 2019, it does most of its research, development and design of products including vacuums, fans and dryers in the UK. It is understood that James Dyson has continued to work from the main UK campus in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, in recent weeks.

There are some limited exceptions to Dyson’s UK office mandate. Workers in the office of the chief executive, financial, legal, communications and human resources teams, among other departments, will be allowed to work from home in some cases, but they may be “required to work from the campus” if they need to “collaborate with others”, as …….


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