Workers must "actively fight back" against efforts by companies to force them back to the office after the pandemic ushered in an era of home working, according to a Microsoft executive.

Lucy Cooper, head of customer innovation for Europe at the American tech company, said that a return to the daily commute would harm women and young people.

It came as Lloyds bank was criticised at its annual meeting by staff unhappy at plans to row back on flexible working.

Microsoft has stuck to a hybrid work model since the pandemic - requiring staff to be in the office 50% of the time unless they have special permission.

Ms Cooper said: "Flexible and remote working benefits single parents, young people, people who have a-typical work or life environment. We need to be really careful before we disenfranchise those groups.

"We have to actively fight back against the rhetoric we are hearing and try and find a new model to help the remote, flexible, hybrid work environment."


Ms Cooper, who said this was a personal view, told the MindGym HR summit in London: "We want to encourage these people to be able to turn up and be as valuable as they possibly can."

The Telegraph says some tech giants have struggled to encourage staff back to the office.

Staff at Amazon and Apple held protests and petitions against mandating that employees return at least three days per week.

Other corporate bosses have sought to reassert control over flexible working by calling them back to work, arguing staff collaborate better in person.

Lloyds has launched a review of working conditions that could mean changes to compressed-hours arrangements, where staff fit the same amount of work as a five-day week into a shorter number of days.

The bank has previously been criticised for saying all full-time employees must be in the office at least two days a week.


Rachel Boothroyd of Unite, which represents members of the bank's 63,000-strong workforce, told the company's annual meeting in Glasgow: "Let's be clear, this is an attack on flexible working."

Delegates at the MindGym conference debated the advantages of a four-day working week and artificial intelligence chatbots, as well as whether diversity and inclusion strategies had gone too far.

Alex Pang, a programme manager at the 4 Day Week campaign, said that companies in the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 were exploring the possibility of implementing a shorter week.

But Conservative politicians have grown increasingly frustrated over businesses refusing to cut back on working from home.

Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, says workers should return to the office unless they had a "good reason not to".

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