Thursday 4 March 2021 8:07 pm

Coming or going? Aviva the latest to cut office space as rival bosses say 'remote working can't last'

Aviva has joined a growing number of FTSE companies that will cut their office space, even as it prepares for employees to return to its site.

The insurance company announced earlier today said it will reduce its property footprint by 30 per cent by the end of 2021.

It comes after the banks HSBC, Standard Chartered, Lloyds Bank and Metro Bank also indicated they planned to slash their office space over the next several years.

But other bank bosses at the same time have recently tried to draw a line under the work-from-home era.

The bosses of Barclays and Goldman Sachs want staff back to their hot-desk or cubicle as soon as possible.

Corporations have tried to strike a balance between supporting staff, obeying both government restrictions and employment law as well as keeping productivity in line with expectations.

Now they have to navigate their emergence from the Covid-19 pandemic, where staff have embraced home working for a year, but companies are missing collaboration opportunities and culture nurturing that comes from being under the same roof.

The result has seen a range of mixed messages from company bosses regarding the return to the office and the durability of remote working policies.

The string of companies cutting office space is telling then of what they might say at virtual conferences and what their finance and property teams expect in terms of headcount onsite each day.

In short, fewer people in the office at any one time.

Even though some companies are planning to reduce their office space most UK businesses are still preparing for their employees to return to work by the 21 June, when all aspects of society will be reopened.

Barclays boss Jes Staley is among those pushing for a prompt return to the office.

Last month Staley said: “It is important to get people back together in physical concentrations. We want our people back together, to make sure we ensure the evolution of our culture and our controls, and I think that will happen over time.”

David Solomon, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, has called working from home an “aberration”, adding that it “is not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal.”

JPMorgan has also noticed a troubling pattern with its work-from-home employees.

Chief executive Jamie Dimon reportedly told analysts that productivity was particular affected on Mondays and Fridays and for its younger employees.