Some employees have become permanent home workers and some have adapted the hybrid model. | MDB Digital


I wonder what the reaction would be here in Spain if a head of a company was to say to his workforce, “If you don’t like it, please seek alternative employment”. Can you imagine the Unions reaction? Let me put this into context. Sir Jim Ratcliffe is the second-richest man in the UK, the chairman and chief executive officer of the INEOS and a minority shareholder in Manchester United. Where he has taken on the task of all football operations. After assessing his latest purchase, he wasn’t a happy man and decided that the workforce had to return to its offices.

You may remember back in 2022 Elon Musk demanded that Tesla employees must return to the office for in-person work at least 40 hours per week, or they’ll be let go. He added, “If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.” Charming!

Working from home has become the norm ever since the pandemic in 2020, and it actually gave employers the opportunity to downgrade the size of offices that they house their workforce in. The upshot of it all is that, according to research, workers’ productivity was less when working from home, and in reality, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work that out. There are exceptions, of course, but most people know that you get more effectiveness, more development of culture, more work ethic, more diversity of thinking, more diversity of experience if people are together in a workplace.

There is no doubt in 95% of professions that in order to achieve outcomes that develop the individual, to meet their expectations of the work environment and of course the business’ expectations of them, being present, where you can be monitored, trained, engaged and focussed on and have work disciplines, rather than ordering a pizza, scratching your nuts or waiting for an Amazon delivery. Sir Jim cited that in one of his companies, the email traffic dropped by 20% when they experimented with “work from home Fridays.”

Is it a surprise then that probably the biggest and most successful club in the country is currently going through an awful season? Not only on the field, but it seems off the field too. You may have seen the pictures or videos of water leaking all over the ground last weekend when United played Arsenal. Is this befitting of such a great club? If there’s any stadium in the country that needs to protect itself against the rain, then surely it has to be Manchester United.

Since the pandemic, some companies have initiated a hybrid way of working, which is a flexible working model where employees work partly in the physical workplace, and partly remotely, at home or from another workspace. Whilst it’s a slightly better way of working, it’s a little bit like the saying “you can’t be half pregnant.” Meaning, you’re not committing yourself fully to the job in hand.
It struck me that as I visited offices around the island that this a problem here too. I have visited vast offices only to find them empty and when I’ve asked why that is, it’s the same reasons as the UK. Some employees have become permanent home workers and some have adapted the hybrid model. So the offices are busy on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but empty on Mondays and Fridays. You have to ask of why have Fridays and Mondays at home? Well, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you.

The problem that some companies have here is that they have signed written agreements with staff enabling them to work from home. Those agreements have now become difficult to change because of the rights of workers here in Spain, and so I imagine like Sir Jim has mentioned, productivity is suffering.

There is lots of talk here in Spain of cutting the working week. Really? In a country dominated by tourism, how is that going to work? Maybe trying to get people back into their offices sho uld be their first step. I wish them luck with that one!