Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

A Room of One's Own

Written by Ralitsa Bobcheva, associate 
Edited by David Gaffney, partner
24 February 2021

Good morning,

A year ago, many employers were wondering how on earth productivity could be sustained if employees worked from home. Today, with the end of lockdown in sight, many are wondering how productivity could be maintained when they return to the office. 
 
It didn’t take long for the tide to turn. Some firms were reporting a 47% increase in worker productivity by mid-May, just two months after the first lockdown restrictions were introduced, shattering the common assumption that remote workers are less productive than those in the traditional office. 
 
Even those most suspicious of the growing army of pyjama-clad workers could not deny the positive shift illustrated by a series of productivity stats published during the course of last year. In December, wrapping up months of remote work, The Economist published research by Harvard doctoral students showing that worker productivity had risen consistently during 2020. 
 
In one fresh example from yesterday, HSBC executives have decided to reduce office space by nearly 40% in a bid to cut costs and capitalise on a new part-office-part-homeworking model, after seeing the success of remote working. 
 
There is a ‘but’, of course. Despite the good news, a growing number of employees are reporting unhealthy shifts in their work-life balance. A whole vernacular has made it into our everyday language to reflect the new and often strange reality of WFH, such as feeling “overzoomed’ (stressed by too many calls) or the “exhaustion epidemic”. 
 
Looking at both sides of the argument, one thing stands out: short-term increased productivity does not necessarily equal long-term success, particularly if there’s a health and wellbeing crisis looming for frazzled remote workers. Perhaps we need to rethink the concept of productivity itself. 
 
Virginia Woolf wrote that one needs a room of their own to produce something of real value. Aristotle told us that humans are social animals. I wonder if the key to future productivity lies somewhere in between. 

News

The chief executive of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan, has warned that the climate emergency is reaching “worst case scenario” levels which if left unchecked could be disastrous for humanity. He has urged MPs to act on reducing emissions and to find ways to adapt to the “inevitable” impacts of the climate emergency.
 
Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a strategic framework for the easing of restrictions in Scotland. Under the proposed measures, four people from two households will be able to meet outdoors from 15 March and all primary pupils as well as S4 to S6 secondary students should return to school from the same date, subject to a series of conditions being met. 
 
Malaysia has deported more than 1,000 Myanmar nationals amid concerns by human right groups that they could be at risk of persecution if they are returned to their homes in the military-ruled country. The deportation comes in defiance of a Kuala Lumpur High Court ruling barring the removal of some 1,200 people before a further hearing today. 

Business and economy

Holiday firms and airlines have reported a 500% surge in bookings overnight, following the announcement by Boris Johnson on easing lockdown restrictions in England. The prime minister has promised to review the option of introducing ‘vaccine passports’, raising the prospect that international travel might resume in summer. 
 
The Investment Association is reportedly set to issue ‘amber-tops’, the second-highest level of alert to the biggest 350 listed firms, if they do not disclose the ethnic and gender diversity on their boards or publish plans to improve it. The advisory group is applying the pressure of its 250 members to encourage listed companies to adopt the Parker Review target.
 
The Biden administration is drawing up plans to impose sanctions on Russia over a suspected cyber espionage campaign. This comes after the US Senate found out that since 2019 hackers potentially used different ways to infiltrate government and corporate networks under the so called ‘SolarWinds’ hack. (£)

Columns of note

In The Independent, Victoria Richards asks different children what they really think about going back to school. Some describe the pandemic as a superhero movie villain, others are eagerly waiting to reconnect with other children, walking around in full school uniform at home. But all of them show immense awareness of the intricacies of the pandemic – an awareness which we often fail to pay due attention to, Richards argues.
 
As the UK and Australia entered the fourth round of bilateral talks for a trade deal this week, Alexander Downer argues in City AM that Boris Johnson’s government has a unique opportunity to secure an ‘Australia-style’ deal with none other than Australia itself.

Cartoon source: The New Yorker

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks closed in positive territory, as a rally in travel and leisure stocks offset the angst over inflation and the latest unemployment data. The FTSE 100 went up 0.21% at 6,625.94, and the FTSE 250 was 0.37% firmer at 21,057.72.
 
In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.05%, to 31,537.35, the S&P 500 gained 0.13%, to 3,881.37 while the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.5%, to 13,465.20.
 
In company news:
 
The Competition and Markets Authority has called for regulatory changes to deal with Google and Facebook’s market dominance in the UK online advertising market.
 
Chinese private equity firm Boyu Capital is reportedly raising a new, China-focused fund targeting $6 billion.
 
Swedish plant-based milk maker Oatly is set to go public later this year with a New York listing that could value it at up to $10bn.

What’s happening today?

Finals
Georgia Capital
Lloyds
Petrofac
Telecom Egypt S

Interims
Haydale
Netcall
Town Centre

AGMs
Bankers Investment Trust
Electra Private Equity
Gooch & Housego
Paragon Group

UK economic announcements
(00:01) BRC Shop Price Index

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Gross Domestic Product (GER)
(12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US) 
(15:00) New Homes Sales (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

The total volume of Covid-19 particles in the world takes up roughly the same amount of space as half a can of juice. (source: @qikipedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
President of COP26 (including topical questions)
 
Prime Minister’s Question Time
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
High Performance Vehicle Renting (Regulation) – Holly Lynch
 
Consideration of Lords amendments
Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Fire Safety Bill
 
Consideration of Lords message
Consideration of Lords Message to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill
 
Consideration of Lords amendments
Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill
 
Adjournment
Flooding in Oxford West and Abingdon constituency – Layla Moran
 
Legislation
Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill – committee stage – Lord Greenhalgh
 
Orders and regulations
Non-Domestic Rating (Designated Area) Regulations 2021 – Lord Greenhalgh

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Various

Scottish Parliament 

Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Portfolio Questions
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Prisoner Voting
Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party Debate: Fair Funding for Local Government
Business Motions
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
Decision Time
Members’ Business — Christine Grahame: Citizens Advice Scotland Helps More People

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