Boris Johnson is expected to encourage people to head back into the office after the Governor of the Bank of England warned that people’s “fear” of commuting was “holding back the recovery”.
With the Prime Minister growing concerned that the economy is not recovering at the pace that he had hoped, Britons are now preparing to board trains and buses for the first time in months as they return to workplaces around the UK.
As the daily commute resumes, Telegraph readers have told us how they’re feeling about returning to the office as well as sharing their view on how a large proportion of the population working from home could impact the UK economy.
Read on to see what your fellow readers have had to say and then share your own hopes and fears for returning to work in the comments section at the bottom of this article.
‘I’m in the seeming minority desperate to get back to my office’
“I’m in the seeming minority desperate to get back to my office. Work, the preceding gym visit and the daily commute are the only places I talk to people and the facilities aren’t available at home to work effectively. I work in a university. Those who work in administration are desperate to carry on working at home. They can happily perch at the kitchen worktop and tool around with excel spreadsheets for four hours a day, saving hundreds a month in childcare and commuting.
“My colleagues and I are expected to produce a massive number of videos and provide ourselves with furniture, equipment, stationery and presumably, if necessary, a larger house to accommodate this enterprise.
“I suspect my employer is going to suggest that in the interests of the planet, family life and work-life balance it has decided to “allow” everyone to continue working at home until at least January, during which time I’ll be paying their heating, lighting and stationery bill while slowly going insane.”
‘My son’s office won’t be re-opening until the new year’
“What did they expect? Closing down the economy for four months; proving that office-based people can work from home and paying the furloughed service-sector 80 per cent of their wages to sit at home and do nothing was only ever going to have this result.
“My City-boy son, who lives and works in central London, came down to the sticks when lockdown was imposed.
“He rediscovered the pleasure of the countryside: a garden; birds; BBQs; walks; no traffic, as well as the bonus of Mum doing the shopping, providing lunch and cooking dinner while he worked quietly away in my spare bedroom.
“He went back up to London at Whitsun and has been working from his flat ever since. But the place is socially dead, so he’s decided to come back here next week.
“His office won’t be re-opening until the new year and then at 50 per cent capacity.”
‘Employees like these new work arrangements but managers find it makes their job harder’
“I wouldn’t be too fast to tell my boss, ‘I can work from anywhere’.
“If you really can “work from anywhere” it means your job can be done much cheaper by people in other countries.
“But although people can work from home they work better at the office – particularly new staff.
“Employees like these new work arrangements but managers find it makes their job harder. Other utopian working arrangements like flexible working hours or job sharing have had periods where everyone said ‘they are the future’ but managers enthusiasm waned when they discovered it made their jobs harder.”
‘We’re not scared, our life is just so much better!’
“Commuters were already fed up with crazy season ticket fares, excessive parking costs at stations and being crammed onto trains because of inadequate space or cancellations or strikes.
“The fact most of us are set up for work online and do not need to put up with this daily commute farce will be why many will choose not to suffer this anymore. We’re not scared, our life is just so much better!”
‘New graduates need to be shown the ropes’
“Yet again it is the young who suffer. Working from home works well when you are experienced and know what to do. New graduates however need to be shown the ropes.
“Graduate employment schemes have been deferred until the new year, I suspect quite a few will just be cancelled.”
‘If you have the discipline working from home is well worth it’
“I loved working in London in the 80s and 90s. It was a wonderful place and time to be young. I now live in Derbyshire and have worked from home for six years as a consultant in construction. If you have the discipline and are sufficiently established in your career not to need constant supervision, it is well worth it.
“Yes I could have earned more had I stayed in London, but the gains in terms of quality of life, lower cost of living and even productivity are huge. A lot of people are now coming to the same realisation.”
‘Creative collaboration is very difficult when everyone is at home’
“One thing that’s already becoming clear is that creative collaboration is very difficult when everyone is at home. Those water cooler moments when new ideas are born.
“The move from cottage industry to shared, purpose built premises (often in districts dedicated to one trade) didn’t happen without reason.”
‘Central London and the London economy won’t reopen properly until 2021’
“Based on my experience working in a profession where home and client working is normal – working from home, especially for the majority who do not have a dedicated home office (and never will due to space limitations) is much less productive than being based in the office. Apart from that, you communicate less within and between teams than in an office environment and projects are slower.
“Central London and the London economy won’t reopen properly until 2021 unless we have a vaccine by the autumn. I suspect that will see at least 500,000 people from London alone unemployed. EU Migrants may well return leaving London with over-valued office, retail and housing property and a large whole in missing people when normality returns.
“However, the IT-driven work from home effect also means that London’s agglomeration effect will be worse affected than first thought. In practice you could be based pretty much anywhere in the world to serve the global finance market, which implies a large potential to migrate City finance jobs from London to anywhere, which would massively impact of employment (direct and in support), property prices, tax revenue (especially as we rely on salary and spending based taxation).
“The GDP and capital for central London is three to five times that of the UK as a whole. Removing that income and taxation from the UK economy will drive either massive reduction in government spending across the UK as a whole or a debt splurge equivalent to a world war deficit, with little short term hope for a recovery.”
‘Many firms are finding that remote working is absolutely fine’
“The pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already well underway. Those of us living and working in London have for several years looked at the towers going up and wondered who was going to fill them – my own firm started trimming office space in the City five years ago, declined offers to move to the Shard (at steeply cut rates) and implemented regular home working practices. We were far from alone.
“Then came Brexit and while the feared implosion of City jobs was never likely, cuts were inevitable (it will result in far fewer City jobs but the predictions under-estimated the conservatism of big financial institutions – it was always going to play out over 5-10 years).
“Now this, and many firms are finding that remote working is absolutely fine, even on a mass scale. Trading requires tech and, critically, low-latency connectivity but you can find the latter well outside of London (see, for example, the recent boom in small trading firms running algo strategies in places like Colchester and Reading). There’s no reason why server farms need to be in London and the amount of floorspace required for human trading and broking was already in freefall.
“London will adapt, as it always has, but the City-driven boom is played out. No bad thing for the nation as a whole, in the long term, but very tough for the next five years.”
‘Even when it’s safe, a large proportion of office workers will not return’
“Working from home has changed everything and a substantial proportion of office workers will not return to the city centres, ever.
“In the last few months before I retired, the firm that employed me as one of many in offices extending to two expensive floors in a city-centre office block was upgrading its IT so as to enable paperless working and sharing of the workload by staff in physically-distant locations.
“Five years on, I should imagine everyone is working from home, glad to be rid of the daily commute, and the owners of the firm will be wondering, how do we get rid of our lease?
“One major effect of the lockdown is that it has demonstrated the efficacy of working from home for so many. Even when it’s “safe”, if ever, a large proportion of office workers will not return.”
‘Despite the fact I can work from home I should get the train every day purely so I can spend money on lattes?’
“So despite the fact I can work from home at pretty much 100 per cent of normal productivity, I should get a train into central London every day purely so I can spend money on lattes and avocado toast?
“I mean I have a lot of sympathy for people losing their jobs and to be honest I wouldn’t begrudge them the money I am saving on train fares and lattes, but why engage in a now-pointless activity just to support businesses that are otherwise unviable?”
‘All the resources that go into commuting and commuters will be re-allocated’
“Surely what matters is productivity, not being sat at a desk. All the resources that go into commuting and commuters will be re-allocated and generate an adjusted and ultimately more efficient economy.”
‘Productivity has improved and people are happier’
“If one can work from home then why on earth would one commute for hours to a city centre office? From my own experience of running a business I have many functions that used to be office based but work equally well from home – accounts, marketing, sales, customer service.
“Productivity has actually improved and people are happier. I think this is why people aren’t returning to offices rather than a misguided fear of infection.”
‘It’s not about fear, it’s about preference’
“The government has been caught short on the structural change to many previously office-based jobs that the response to this virus has created.
“There has been a trickle towards remote working in the last few years for many office workers but it was always seen as a ruse for those that just liked the easy life by working from home and being less productive. What this period has shown is that actually whole businesses can function well with the whole staff at home. I am in an office-based role as are a lot of my friends and clients and the message we are all getting is either ‘expect working from home to be the new default position forever’ or ‘you can head back into the office for a couple of days a week if you wish but it’s up to you’.
“Personally, I do want to go back at least two days a week as I have young kids and it’s a better working environment but many shall prefer the home working without the stress of a commute.
“I don’t know how they are going to convince office workers to go ‘back to normal’ now. It’s not about fear, it’s about preference and the home working ‘taboo’ has been broken for good so I can’t see many employers compelling their staff to go back in en masse.”