'Hybrid working will become the norm'


Working from home some of the time, or hybrid working will become "the norm" for many companies after the pandemic, says global workspace provider IWG.

Firms will be looking to save money and be more environment-friendly by using less office space, said IWG chief executive Mark Dixon.

IWG said 2020 had been a "challenging" year as fewer firms rented its offices.

But it said it was ready to take advantage of "accelerating demand" for hybrid working.

"Something's happening and it is a change to the way that companies and people work," Mr Dixon told the BBC's Today program.

The coronavirus crisis hit IWG hard, with waning demand for its services leading to a pre-tax loss of £620m last year, according to newly released results.

But Mr Dixon pointed to big new deals with major companies as evidence that the company was turning the corner.

On Monday, IWG signed up its biggest customer to date, securing a three-year agreement with Japanese telecoms group NTT to give its 300,000 employees access to IWG's office network.

Under the terms of the deal, NTT staff will be able to work at any of the 3,300 offices owned by IWG.

In another agreement, Standard Chartered bank's 95,000 staff were recently given access to IWG offices for the next 12 months on a trial basis.

Mr Dixon said companies were keen to shed some of their office space and use third-party facilities instead, often closer to where the staff actually live.

"It works for companies because it's a lot cheaper," he said. "It's also much, much better for the environment," he added, as it enabled workers to cut back on commuting.

No, $1,400 Won’t Make It ‘Advantageous’ to Stay Home

When I was a poor, pregnant 21-year-old, I struggled to afford groceries. I signed up for WIC (a federal food assistance program for women, infants, and children) but it didn’t help me buy any of the fruits and vegetables I’d hoped to incorporate into my diet. The only thing I could buy with my monthly paper checks was cereal (unfrosted Corn Flakes and Cheerios without honey), milk, and beans.

Was I grateful for the help? Yes. But to me, the restrictions on what foods this money could buy showed just how much we, as a society, don’t trust people — especially poor Black people — to make the decisions best for them. We say we want to help, but then we dictate how that help looks. Consider what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ridiculously said last week about the then-potential $1,400 stimulus checks: “There is a concern about making it more advantageous to stay home rather than going back to work.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

American households will soon see a third stimulus check as part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package which the Senate passed on Saturday. Under the plan, adults earning under $80,000 will receive $1,400 plus an additional $1,400 per child.

And a family of four could receive up to $5,600 — a one-time amount that looks good on paper but is still not enough to live for over a month in most U.S. states. (The living wage is currently about $69,000 per year for a family of four, according to MIT’s Living Wage calculator.)

Yet, even in the midst of a global pandemic in which a majority of low- and middle-class Americans have had trouble paying bills or needed to dip into their retirement or savings to do so, lawmakers are still bringing up the false argument that one paycheck could push people to stop working — or give up their job search.

In fact, the opposite is true. Studies show that giving people cash can often encourage them to be more productive. In Stockton, California, a guaranteed income pilot randomly selected 125 residents living in neighborhoods under the city’s median income of $46,000 a year. Then, they gave them $500 a month for a year, no strings attached. (The money was provided by a foundation for this experiment.) An analysis of its outcome shows participants were more financially secure, they could pay the bills they needed to — especially unexpected ones — and overall, full-time employment rose.

And, when it comes to stimulus packages, studies show they, too, are beneficial. A Brookings Institution analysis of the current stimulus package that’s on the table says direct aid to families, along with other proposed measures, would help boost the country’s economic activity.

Welfare programs overwhelmingly benefit White women more than any other group.

“When recipients of federal aid increase their purchases of goods and services, businesses gear up production and hire more workers than they otherwise would,” and, those newly hired workers would then also spend more, the study explains.

Yet, even with data, the myth of the “welfare queen” stereotype still reigns supreme in the minds of those making the decisions about who gets federal aid and what it looks like. The term wasn’t brand new when it was adopted by President Ronald Reagan during his second presidential run, but he did popularize it as he exaggerated the story of a real-life scammer, Linda Taylor, to play on the incorrect perceptions White Americans had of Black people.

Reagan and others argued that there were single Black mothers who used government assistance to live large, grandiose lives when actually, from their inception, welfare programs overwhelmingly benefit White women more than any other group. And this fight against the idea of helping people who “don’t deserve it” continued through the decades — and across political party lines. In 1992, President Bill Clinton also ran on the promise to “end welfare as we have come to know it.”

But, putting aside the argument that we are responsible for helping one another and that we should do this to ensure that everyone has their basic needs met, altruism itself is economically beneficial. The world’s wealthiest, generous countries have efficient social programs that make it simple to apply for and receive benefits, while in the U.S., we spend a great deal of money on the difficult processes that result in very little cash actually going to those in need.

Clinton did make good on his campaign promise and signed his welfare reform bill into law in 1996. And decades years later, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis, the U.S. still spends the same on social programs, but far less money goes directly to poor people, due to a drop in per-person spending.

Directly giving Americans $1,400 is the easiest way to get money right into people’s hands and bank accounts. It’s a way to not only stimulate the economy but also to be a helping hand in the midst of the kind of global pandemic not seen in over a century. Even if — as a country — we fail to understand all the ways American families are hurting and how to help them, at least we can be smart about how to use the stimulus.

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