British billionaire Lord Sugar rips remote work—while Zooming in from offsite. But he may have a point that it’s ‘bad for morale, bad for learning’

GettyImages 1441631579 e1707159014474

Lord Alan Sugar hates remote work so much he calls in remotely to the BBC to complain about it. 

The British billionaire went viral on TikTok for espousing his anti-remote work views from the comfort of a remote office—but work experts have agreed with much of what he’s saying.

“You don’t learn sitting at home in your pajamas,” the entrepreneur and host of UK’s The Apprentice said. The interview, conducted last week, was part of Sugar’s press tour following the 18th season premiere of The Apprentice. “I’m totally against it, quite frankly. I think it’s bad for morale, bad for learning. I know I learn from being with other people in an office.” 

While Sugar has taken a more incendiary stance than most, his opinions are hardly unpopular—especially among older, more established businesspeople. 

Citadel CEO Ken Griffin said that failing to work in-person is a “grave mistake” and could make it easier for your boss to fire you, since they’re unlikely to know you personally. Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon called remote work an “aberration,” and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon said remote workers at his bank should probably work elsewhere, while Tesla’s Elon Musk took it a step further, saying remote employees are simply pretending to work. 

But there are some merits to the argument that in-person work can be critical for early-career workers. (Even some angry TikTok commenters copped to that.) Many tasks are better learned when you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with your manager, and a good amount of workers can admit that they’re often more productive when they’re in their office. The pros and cons of both sides mean that an employee-led hybrid arrangement is often the best move—which is why strict return-to-office mandates, with no room for flexibility, are so roundly reviled. 

‘It’s a bit more nuanced than that’

For as much anger those pro-office bosses’ comments have stoked, at least they had the good sense to make their claims from their offices, though. Predictably, the criticism of Sugar and charges of hypocrisy rolled in almost instantly. “At the launch of his own show—which BBC licence payers fund—[Sugar] couldn’t be arsed to be there in person,” one Twitter/X user, a British journalist, remarked. A representative for Sugar, Andrew Bloch, replied that Sugar took the call remotely because he was “out of the country.” 

The journalist, Harry Wallop, countered that even still, Sugar “can’t on the one hand say WFH/working remotely is terrible for the economy and at the same time embrace the freedom and flexibility it gives him (and everyone else) to work from a different country/time zone.” 

“It’s a bit more nuanced than that,” Bloch responded. “but I take your point.”

Similar responses quickly ensued when BBC published a 20-second clip of the interview last week on TikTok. “From a person who owns many unnecessary offices in London … no bias here, Alan?” one user wrote. Another said, “Well, if he’s a true capitalist, he can set those terms for his employees and see what talent he attracts.”  

Sugar has regularly hemmed and hawed over the move towards remote work, arguing that it worsens performance and hurts business outcomes. In 2022,  the billionaire said those who work from home should be paid less, because they’re supposedly saving on the cost of commuting. (He was roundly critiqued for that take, too.)

Bloch did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

Subscribe to the new Fortune CEO Weekly Europe newsletter to get corner office insights on the biggest business stories in Europe. Sign up for free.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top