The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, believes that working from home is no substitute for being in the office. Just as remote learning is not the same as being in a classroom, Zoom does not provide the sort of creative energy as when colleagues interact face to face. There is a risk of impeding economic recovery. Technology helps us to survive a crisis, but will never make us thrive in the way we do when we work collaboratively in real life. Hundreds of thousands of white-collar workers will continue to work from home well into the autumn. These include banking giants, energy firms, telecoms providers and publishers. Some offices have been scrapped and conference rooms provided. These trends risk hollowing out towns and cities and the shift could lead to job losses. Last month a Cabinet Minister suggested that civil servants who refuse to return to the office should be paid less than those back at their desks.
Touker Suleyman, a leading businessman, says, “A return to the workplace is the equitable and sensible way of doing business in the post-Covid world…with a large proportion of the nation double-jabbed. I want my team around me feeding me ideas and providing solutions, not stuck at home.” The Gov. UK Covid 19 guidance page states that, “Government would expect and recommend a gradual return (to work) over the summer,” but as few as one in five civil servants have returned to the office. Some say that they refuse because of the risk of catching Covid and saving on commuter costs as well as enjoying more family time. Interestingly, in a newspaper survey, more than thirty firms said that they will allow staff to spend part of their week working from home and part in the office.
We need a rapid job-protecting economic revival. The Confederation of British Industry believes that a combination of Brexit and the pandemic will lead to labour shortages in Britain as businesses attempt to cope with a lack of lorry drivers, waiters, chefs and construction workers. It believes that immigration rules could be relaxed as many overseas workers who left Britain during the pandemic and following Brexit, have stayed abroad, putting pressure on prices and wages and threatening Britain’s fragile recovery. There are currently 1.6 million out of work and 1.9 million on furlough despite increasing demand for workers. Many of these may lose their jobs when support is withdrawn at the end of this month. Transport, shops and city centres are all suffering from a lack of footfall and public spending.
With such a large percentage of the country double-jabbed, surely there is no justification for anyone healthy to refuse to return to work. People waiting for a passport, a driving licence, a tax rebate and those put on hold on the telephone for hours at a time, would be delighted.
Written by Anita McGhee x
Head of Blogs