Charlotte Street Partners

DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Out of office

Written by Scarlett Regan, researcher 
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
15 May 2020

Good morning,

We’ve been working from home for nearly nine weeks now. Considering that during this period we’ve been strictly confined to our households, it’s a long time. It’s also a hefty number of video calls. 

Companies across the world are now having to think about whether people will ever return to the office. This week, Twitter told staff that they can work from home “forever” if they wish, after realising that their employees can be “far more productive” at home. For a company that employs more than 4,000 people globally, this announcement may set a trend. 

Home working isn’t an option for employees in manufacturing, construction and many other activities, but for office workers the debate is alive and real.

Employers have realised that working from home – with the right technology – is perfectly doable, and that often people work harder than they would in the office. Providing you have decent broadband, many of us can quite easily work from home wherever that home may be. In fact, estate agents have reported a rise in the number of enquiries in out-of-city locations, from Dorset to Shetland. Escape to the Country is coming into vogue. 

But in recent weeks, I’ve been starting to miss the office perks. From having a spontaneous tea break with a colleague, to asking someone for advice on a specific matter, we have come to realise that the office setting is quite special and should not be lost forevermore.

The level of collaboration and companionship available in an office just can’t exist to its full extent over Zoom. Nor can the after-work pub trip, for that matter. 

Maybe the solution is to have a happy medium. A flexible working scheme might be the way forward for millions of employees after this crisis, with opportunities to work from home one or two days a week.

For those who have been able to spend extensive amounts of time with their children – or pets – in the last few weeks, it might be hard to revert back completely to a full working week at the office. For others, however, it might be all they want.  

News

Health unions have put forward a nine-point plan for NHS services to reopen safely, urging that rapid testing and an adequate supply of PPE must be in place. The unions represent more than one million workers across the UK. Other measures in their plan include ensuring social distancing and allowing some staff to work from home. 

The Welsh government will publish its roadmap for exiting the lockdown later today. Unlike Boris Johnson’s exit plan, it is not expected that the Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, will offer any dates. He will explain how restrictions on life, schools and businesses could start to be eased. 

According to new data, one in four coronavirus deaths in hospitals are people who have diabetes. This comes as NHS England has broken down deaths by pre-existing conditions for the first time. (£) 

Business and economy

Electronics company, Honeywell, in North Lanarkshire is to make 70 million face masks for health and care workers. They have agreed a contract with the UK government to make this PPE at their site in Newhouse, creating 450 jobs. The masks will be produced over an 18-month period starting in early July.  

Canary Wharf has drawn up detailed plans to bring financial employees back to the district, as the lockdown measures ease in England. Measures include one-way routes, daily deep cleaning, limiting lift capacity, and removing soft furnishings. Additional bicycle racks are being installed, in light of the recent surge in cycling. (£) 

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), almost half of all businesses do not have enough cash reserves to last them more than six months. The ONS surveyed more than 5,000 companies between 20 April and 3 May to collect this data, and the results are likely to fuel anxiety about the ability of firms to weather a prolonged lockdown. (£)

Columns of note

In The Times, Tali Fraser stresses the need for the government to acknowledge young people and support them in dealing with this crisis. As a student herself, she has first-hand experience of putting her university life on hold. The divergence in university policy between universities and even within universities is baffling, she writes, particularly when the normal fees are being demanded. And, as this is the generation who will likely be paying this off for the longest, some government attention wouldn’t go amiss. (£) 

In The Guardian, Andy Beckett questions how long it will be until Johnson’s vote-winning optimism collides with reality. Despite bumbling speeches and his inability to cope at PMQs, Johnson maintains high personal ratings. Like Ronald Reagan, Johnson churns out half-truths that manage to keep voters half-believing. Unfortunately, many voters prefer irresponsible leaders to realistic ones, he concludes. 

Cartoon source: The Financial Times

Markets

What happened yesterday? 

Wall Street witnessed a seesawing of gains and losses yesterday, as a surge in shares of US banks was counterbalanced by a fall in the value of large industrial groups, after new data was published on unemployment claims. Figures released by the US labour department revealed that 2.98m Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, bringing the total to 36m in eight weeks.  

London’s FTSE 100 fell 2.8%, and the European Stoxx 600 tumbled 2.2%. This came as hopes for a quick economic recovery from the crisis faded further.  

After at least 120 people were confirmed as infected with the virus in South Korea this week, its Kospi index fell 0.8%. 

There was a more positive story for oil: Brent crude was up 5.5%, and the West Texas Intermediate rose 7.3%. 

WH Smith suffered an 85% fall in sales last month, as travel restrictions crushed its airport and railways business and the lockdown led to the closure of most of its high street shops. The company is losing between £25m and £30m a month during lockdown. 

Buzzfeed shut its UK news outlet and put ten of its UK staff on furlough. A spokesman said that for economic and strategic reasons, they are going to “focus on news that hits big in the United States during this period” rather than covering local news in the UK, or Australia.

What’s happening today?

Trading Announcements
William Hill  

AGMs
Derwent London 
Fgc Ues Pjsc 
Gresham Hse. 
Jadestone Engy 
Pennant Int. 
Petrofac 
Phoenix Grp Hdg 
Real Est. Inv. 
Serinus Energy 
Signature Aviat 
William Hill 

Final Dividend Payment Date
Bristol&w.prf 
Drax 
Dunedin Ent.it. 
Fid.euro.val. 
John Laing G 
Kerry Grp.’a’ 
Man Group 
Prudential 

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) GP (Preliminary) (GER) 
(07:00) Producer Price Index (GER) 
(10:00) GDP (Prelimiary) (EU) 
(10:00) Balance of Trade (EU) 
(13:30) Retail Sales (US) 
(14:15) Capacity Utilisation (US) 
(14:15) Industrial Production (US) 
(15:00) Business Inventories (US) 
(15:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (Prelim) (US

Source: Financial Times

did you know

The French Academy have declared that Covid-19 is officially feminine so should be used with the article “la”. 

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

No business scheduled

House of Lords 

No business scheduled

Scottish Parliament 

No business scheduled

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