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Nationwide makes u-turn on work from anywhere policy

Nationwide's union said there is very low compliance to the new policy

Nationwide Building Society, which publicly championed a ‘work from anywhere’ policy following the pandemic, has told staff they must work at the office at least two days a week.

The move, which will affect 13,000 staff, has been called ‘complex and confusing’ by Nationwide Group Staff Union (NGSU).

Read more: Return-to-office mandates are failing worldwide, study finds

In a newsletter to members seen by HR magazine, NGSU said: “It is fair to say that the debate about the appropriate mix of office and home working has become a complex and confusing issue and this has led to inconsistencies of approach across the organisation.” 

In 2021, a staff survey found 56% of Nationwide staff wanted to work from home forever. Meanwhile, only 6% wanted to return to the office everyday.

Nationwide responded with a policy that allowed staff to choose where they worked.

At the time, Joe Garner, chief executive, said: “The last year has taught many of us that how we do our jobs is much more important than where we do them from.  

“We have listened and learned, and we are now deciding to move forward, not back. We are putting our employees in control of where they work from, inviting them to locate for their day depending on what they need to achieve.”

However, in August 2022 new guidance was issued that staff should try to come in at least one day a week or 20%-40% of their time, depending on the type of work.

Now, staff have been told to work in the office for minimum two days a week.

A spokesperson from Nationwide told HR magazine that the bank is still committed to hybrid work.

They said: “For more than a year our guidance has been for colleagues to work a minimum one or two days per week from our offices and hubs a week, depending on their role. We have now established a policy to ensure our colleagues have as much clarity and consistency as possible.

“This change has been agreed with Nationwide’s union and simply moves the minimum requirement to two days for everyone.

"Exceptions will be agreed with colleagues, and everyone will have nearly four months to transition to the new arrangements.”

Read more: Is three the magic number for in-office working?

However, NGSU have shared concerns that returning to office work has been challenging for many employees, particularly those who moved a considerable distance from their designated office during the work from anywhere policy.

The newsletter said: “We now have a situation where the hybrid working guidance of 20%-40% has not been adopted consistently which has led to a lack of clarity and very low compliance for colleagues and leaders. 

“It’s probably also true to say that the experience of those who have returned to offices has been mixed and the benefits attributed to collaborative working and social interaction have not been immediately obvious to all.”

The move comes as jobseeker interest in remote and hybrid work remains high, with searches having risen tenfold from pre-pandemic levels, according to research from Indeed. 

A separate study from Flexa found 305 workers apply to every remote job advert.