No full-time return to the office for more than a million UK workers

·2 min read
A woman uses video conferencing to chat with colleagues (Getty Images)
A woman uses video conferencing to chat with colleagues (Getty Images)

More than 1 million employees at the UK’s biggest firms will not return to the office full time after coronavirus restrictions are eased.

Following three national coronavirus lockdowns, many of the UK’s office workers have become accustomed to working remotely.

While the change has benefited some companies, who haven’t had to pay rent for office space, it has negatively impacted food and drink businesses that relied on the custom of those working nearby.

The BBC surveyed the UK’s 50 biggest companies, 43 of which said they will not be bringing employees back to the office full time.

The firms, which employ 1.1 million people, said they plan to introduce a hybrid model, with staff working from home for part of the week and coming into the office for the rest.

Under government guidelines, all restrictions are set to be lifted on 21 June, including the advice to work from home.

Mark Read, the chief executive of advertising firm WPP, told the BBC that the company is never going to go back to working the way that it did in the past.

He said WPP is still deciding what the future of its offices will look like.

“People are working from home three to four days a week so we probably need 20 per cent less space, but we’re not going to do that if everyone’s working from home on Mondays and Fridays,” he said.

In an announcement yesterday, 5 May, accounting group KPMG told its 16,000 UK employees it is introducing a new measure dubbed the “four-day fortnight”.

From June onwards, people will only be expected to spend four days in the office over a fortnight, with the rest of the time spent working remotely.

The shift towards remote working has impacted cafes and restaurants which heavily relied on the custom of office workers before the pandemic.

In April, Pret a Manger CEO Pano Christou told Bloomberg the company will no longer be focusing its efforts on expansion in London, but rather move its stores outside of cities to where people are living.

“We won’t be going back to the days of working in the office four of five days a week. Flexible working is here to stay.

“If you have a Pret when you’re at work, great, but there’s a big opportunity for us to have more Prets where people are living as well,” he said.

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