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UK chancellor: Getting back to the altar of corporate dreams (the office) will boost young folks' careers

Look at what hanging around the water cooler did for me, says son-in-law of billionaire Infosys founder

Getting back into the office after a pandemic spent home working and on video calls would be "really beneficial" to young people's careers, the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer has said.

Talking to LinkedIn News – no, really – Rishi Sunak reflected on his own career, and observed that he would not have been able to build strong networking relationships had he been working from home.

Sunak, who was privately educated at elite fee-paying school Winchester College, said he'd been chatting to young people about how to get on in their careers.

"I was telling them that the mentors I found when I first started my job I still talk to and they have been helpful to me even after we have gone in different ways. I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my internship or my first bit of my career over [Microsoft] Teams and Zoom. That’s why I think for young people in particular being able to physically be in an office is valuable."

Quite why the Chancellor singled out Teams and Zoom is unclear, we at The Reg are an equal opportunities discriminator and would like to point out to readers that other collaboration solutions are just as annoying.

It's also not certain which job Sunak was talking about. After leaving Lincoln College Oxford, where he was awarded a first in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, he had a brief internship with Conservative Party Campaign Headquarters before joining Goldman Sachs. The investment bank has also spearheaded a return-to-the-office policy, although whether that move was influenced by its considerable commercial property portfolio is anyone's guess.

Anyway, Sunak's argument seems to be that 30 seconds at the water cooler with the assistant vice president of product marketing will do for the average young person's career what his office networking did for his trajectory. After he left Goldman Sachs, he became a partner in a hedge fund and a director of investment firm Catamaran Ventures, owned by his father-in-law, N R Narayana Murthy, billionaire founder of outsourcing giant Infosys.

His career as an MP began in 2014, and he became chancellor during the opening chapters of the pandemic. In that role, Sunak masterminded an Eat Out to Help Out scheme which contributed to a second wave of COVID-19 in the UK, putting an end to the government's first effort at getting people to return to the office.

Sunak said that in this latest reopening the government was leaving the decision up to individual businesses as to whether they haul staff back into the office or not.

"We've kind of stopped saying that people should actively work from home and have now left it up to businesses to figure out the right approach. In terms of a return to work... in keeping with everything else that we are doing, it's been gradual, it's cautious, it's careful, so there will be a gradual return back to the offices," he told LinkedIn News, the business networking site for bullshitters.

In tech land, Cisco has become the latest big biz to talk about the big return to the office. It is experimenting with giving team leaders the freedom to decide how many staff will work on site and at what frequency.

Switchzilla said last week that fewer than one in four staff anticipate working in the office.

Many tech vendors appear willing to be flexible in remote working policies, and those that have not been – Facebook and Apple – quickly climbed down due to a staff backlash or because of the virus coming back strong.

Maybe they realise the daily commutes are a waste of time, or perhaps simply realise people working at home can work harder, for better or worse. ®

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