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Sweet deal: UK workers lured back to office with bonuses and ice-cream

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Companies across the UK are offering perks to lure their staff back into the office after nearly 18 months of working from their kitchen tables, ranging from free meals and ice-cream to cash bonuses.

The professional services firm PwC’s 22,000 UK workforce are being offered one of the most lucrative incentives, each receiving an extra £1,000 this month, as they switchto a hybrid working environment where they will spend two to three days in the office a week.

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While the payout is not conditional on whether they stop working from home, it was suggested to staff that they could use it to cover newly incurred commuting expenses.

“How you spend it is up to you,” an internal PwC memo said. “You may wish to spend it on socialising with friends and colleagues, it may help with commuting costs or – perhaps reigniting a gym membership or a new bike to commute. However you choose to spend it, we hope it will go some way to helping everyone adjust over the next few months.”

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Elsewhere, the US bank Goldman Sachs is continuing to offer all UK workers who come into the office free breakfast and lunch, as well as ice-cream from Hackney Gelato in the afternoons, at its London offices at Plumtree Court. The Wall Street lender, which employs 6,000 UK bankers, has also waived gym fees, reopened its rooftop garden to staff and continued to offer childcare on site as needed.

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About 50% of staff are now back in office at Goldman, whose chief executive, David Solomon, famously called working from home an “aberration” that did not fit with the bank’s “innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture”. While management have not asked UK staff to disclose their vaccination status, workers are still being tested for Covid at the office as needed, and are required to wear masks when not seated at their desks.

The asset manager Janus Henderson and the law firm Slaughter and May are also offering free meals to staff, with the latter giving breakfast credits – covering coffee as well as cold and hot food – for in-office staff from Monday.

Meanwhile, the insurer Phoenix Group is trying to ease workers into socialising with colleagues by launching special “safely social” events that will involve colour-coded lanyards signalling whether a co-worker is comfortable with physical contact, such as high-fives, or prefer to keep their distance.

Phoenix Group’s 7,200 workers have been taking part in the get-togethers at its 11 UK offices, where the company has laid out an array of free refreshments including sandwiches, crisps, fruit and chocolate.