The British government is getting increasingly concerned about the reluctance of UK workers in return to their offices.

In London, only 13% of people have returned to their offices. Elsewhere in the country mobile phone data has revealed that only 17% have returned in the UK’s 63 biggest cities, the same proportion as at the end of June when Covid-19 was at its height in the UK.

The figures are even lower in Government offices where only one in ten civil servants are back at their desks.

Now the UK government is to launch a campaign to encourage a return to work by highlighting safety measures that employers have put in place. The Government is pushing for office occupancy to rise to 30% by October, although many companies are getting increasingly comfortable with their staff working from home.

Many leading employers have said that their staff can work from home indefinitely. Amazon, which employs 5,000 people in London, has told staff to stay home until next year, while  PWC has said that most of its 22,000 workers will never return to the office full-time.

A BBC survey of the UK’s biggest companies showed that half of them had made no plans to bring staff back into the office.

The head of the employers’ organisation the CBI has warned that city centres across the UK could become “ghost towns” if the Prime Minister Boris Johnson doesn’t do more to encourage workers to return to their offices.

It’s CEO Carolyn Fairbairn says thousands of businesses that rely on passing trade are suffering and many could go out of business all together. The popular salad and sandwich chain Pret A Manger has already announced nearly 3,000 job losses this week.

Public support for the Government back-to-work campaign appears thin with only 31% of people thinking firms should be encouraging people to return to their offices with 47% supporting continuing home working.

With a UK GDP projected to contract by  20-30%, the stakes are high as the Government seeks to balance a public health crisis with a deep economic recession.

Peter Burdin
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