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Next bosses call home working ‘challenging’ but ‘informative’

Next said the pandemic had been “expensive and miserable” but has resulted in some “remarkable” new ways of working, according to its half-year report released yesterday.

The review named “new ways of working” as one of four key messages for the half-year, alongside sales, financial results and business developments.

The retailer said that video calls have proved “unwieldy, frustrating and inefficient” as alternatives to the “spontaneous” conversations and collaborations made possible in an office.

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In combination with “stultified” audiences during long slideshow presentations, Next’s report said that the lack of in-person interaction was “by far the biggest problem with home working”.

However, the study did offer some positives. In the warehouses and call centre operations, Next said it had “discovered more efficient ways of working”. In non-operational departments such as IT and Buying, home-working “forced” the company to use new technology which has offered “improved communications, efficiency and employee satisfaction.”

The most “important” benefit Next reported was a relaxation of the product selection process. This, it said, has “empowered” individuals and small teams to make more decisions outside of the “corporate machine” and improved creative output.

Looking forward, the retailer said: “It is too early to judge how much working from home will become a permanent feature of life going forward. It will vary from department to department, job to job and person to person.

“Ultimately there will be a balance between home and office working; finding that balance will take time and care.”

Next promised: “We will avoid edicts from the Boardroom that impose a one-size-fits-all solution for working from home.

“We will, however, set out some very clear simple principles which we expect people to follow when determining the balance between home and office working – above all else we need to be clear that the business must come first.”

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