Boots Orders Support Staff Back Into Office Five Days a Week From September



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Boots is ordering administrative staff back into the office for five days a week from September as it tries to gear up the business before a potential sale or flotation.

The CEO, Seb James, said the employees – who had been asked to work at least three days a week in the group’s various bases in Nottingham, Weybridge in Surrey, and London – should return for the full working week, arguing that the office was a “much more fun and inspiring place” with everyone in attendance.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the informal conversations, brief catch-ups and ability to meet in groups in person has been far more effective – and better for our unique Boots culture – than the enforced formality of remote meetings,” James told staff.

He said the company would spend the next few months upgrading the IT systems in its offices so that all had access to video conferencing. He said the company would also improve its wifi, create more “quiet spaces,” improve car parking, and look at “how to make our food better.”

About 3,900 Boots staff work at its head offices with the rest of its 52,000 employees in stores or in warehouses and distribution.

James said the office should be Boots support staff’s “normal place of work” but conceded there would be “the odd day when it makes much more sense for you to work elsewhere – for either business or personal reasons.” He gave the example of a dentist’s appointment in the middle of the day.

A Boots spokesperson said: “We are asking team members to make the office their usual place of work from 1 September. We really value the team spirit that comes with being together in person. There will of course still be times when working from home is necessary for either personal or business reasons.”

The changes in working come as Boots’ US-based owner considers a sale or possible flotation of its UK retail arm, which could value the business at as much as £7 billion ($9 billion).

Walgreens Boots Alliance, which abandoned a £5 billion sale of Boots and its related No7 Beauty brand in 2022, is thought to be exploring options including an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange.

Boots’ change of tack marks a gradual shift in sentiment against working from home among many businesses since the pandemic lockdowns ended.

In December, the Nationwide building society told its staff they must work in the office at least two days a week from early this year while the tech firm Amazon has warned it will block promotions for workers who refuse to work in the office three days a week.

Many large corporations started to call for an end to the more flexible working patterns in the autumn, led by the big tech firms such as Amazon, the Google owner Alphabet and Meta, and banks including Citigroup and Lloyds.

Nearly two-thirds of bosses believe workers would return to the office five days a week within the next three years, according to a survey by advisory firm KPMG published in October. Most company leaders participating in that report thought pay and promotions could become linked to workplace attendance.

By Sarah Butler

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