In recent weeks, concerns have been expressed about the effect an extended period of remote working will have on city centres. CBI Director General Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, for instance, warned of cities becoming ‘ghost towns’, adding that a return to work was vital for reviving the economy.
The government has previously promoted ways to make workplaces COVID-secure so that more people feel comfortable returning to the office, although fears have been raised over the impact such a move might have on the R rate. Business leaders have also called for greater guidance and the introduction of government incentives to help firms with the cost of making premises COVID-secure.
Members of the business community have also stressed that the final decision must rest with the companies and staff themselves. Institute of Directors chief economist Tej Parikh commented: “It’s right for the government to encourage and enable those who want to return. However, the decision ultimately rests with individual firms and staff, many of whom have found remote working much more suitable than expected.”
On 22 September, the Prime Minister announced an abrupt U-turn following a surge in infections, forcing companies to rethink plans for office staff. More on this in the October Business Review.