The Prime Minister faces the unenviable, yet unavoidable, task of forging a path to get Britain back into the office.
Any effort to do this has met opposition. Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, appeared before the 1922 committee in mid-July, to stress the importance of improving confidence in public transport before the workforce could return to the office. Bailey suggested that covid-secure public transport was integral to any form of economic bounce back.
In turn, Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance gave evidence to MP’s. Vallance spoke of the importance of continuing social distancing in the future, stating that he saw ‘absolutely no reason’ to change the current working from home guidance. In fact, many businesses have welcomed working from home with open arms, because it is cheaper for them in the long run, and office workers generally prefer it. As well as this, office workers who were reaching retirement have found a new lease of life, because they no longer have to brave the commute. Squeezing into packed carriages on the London Underground is a young person’s game.
Yet although there is no scientific reason to get workers back into offices, there is an economic one. Many of the job cuts which have been announced so far don’t come from offices, they come from businesses that serve office workers. There has been a realisation in recent weeks that city centres will face irreversible damage, as the likes of Pret A Manger, and various coffee shop chains continue to operate without their usual footfall during lunch breaks.
Re-opening Britain’s office economy is going to be an uphill task. As with most parts of the coronavirus recovery, it is ultimately an issue of balancing scientific advice with economic risk.
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