Unilever predicts the future

POSTED: January 15, 2021

I read this earlier in the week:

The boss of Unilever, one of the UK’s biggest companies, has said his office workers will never return to their desks five days a week, in the latest indication that coronavirus will transform modern working life.

Alan Jope, the chief executive of the consumer goods group, … said he did not expect office workers across western Europe and north America to return to work until at least April, and added that Unilever would use a “hybrid mode” of working between homes and offices after that. Permanent changes are expected for many of its 150,000 global employees, 7,000 of whom are in the UK.

This scarcely counts as news, since many people have claimed that the pandemic would result in permanently changed work lives. However, most of those have been consultants or CEOs of digital companies already well-versed in distributed working. Alan Jope, on the other hand, acts as CEO for Unilever, “the third most valuable company on the London Stock Exchange, [which] is the maker of brands including Dove soap, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Marmite. It also owns Hellman’s, Knorr, Lipton and Persil”.

So we cannot write Alan Jope off as a hipster or utopian dreamer or someone hoping to “disrupt” capitalism for fun and profit. We might want to note what he has said and begin planning for a different kind of future.