The pandemic has propelled many big companies to reconsider their real estate – whether head offices, branches or call centres. 
John Collins agrees with the principle of adopting a hybrid model and rationalising under-utilised real estate but is sceptical about taking this too far – both from a cultural and social point of view.
Remote working has been a great solution for a crisis and it will be a great complementary technology in future.
But he is adamant: “It can’t completely replace the office environment.”
There are obvious organisational and cultural reasons for this. “If people are hardly ever in the office the whole team ethos will decay. If companies don’t find the right balance productivity will suffer, new recruits will not be able to learn from all those spontaneous situations, observe and learn from how more experienced people do things and learn to function in a team environment.” 
There are two arguments about what young people want. Some say they want the chance to work in offices, others say they want the freedom to work when and where they want.
The truth for Santander, John believes, probably lies in between the two – flexibility, but with people coming together at regular intervals, with head office staff coming in on average two to three days a week.
But there is a wider social issue that has been put under a glaring spotlight by the pandemic – social exclusion and unequal opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds to find work.
There are young people sitting in certain regions where organisations are thinking of closing offices who don’t have the wherewithal to work remotely and very few other work opportunities. 
“If employers say to them you need to work from home most of the time they are potentially excluding them from the workforce because they may not have decent broadband, they may live in a three-generation household and not have private space.”
And in some parts of the UK – cities in the north and rural areas like the deep south-west for example – young people, with no work opportunities, are becoming very vulnerable to precisely the people John’s financial crime technology is trying to root out. 
“You have these kids who can’t get a job and post pandemic they may have even less chance to get a job. They are the people who are being preyed upon by organised criminals and county lines drug dealer gangs. So you’ve got to do something about it and get them into the workplace through structural change and investment led by Government and local authorities and supported by forward thinking employers.”

“If people are hardly ever
in the office the whole
team ethos will decay.”


An interview with John Collins,
UK Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Banco Santander