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Get back to the office! But why?

(730 Posts)
Furret Fri 28-Aug-20 14:20:30

I see ‘the government’ is now saying that even people who have been successfully working from home, should go back to the office.

I don’t see the logic in this as a blanket statement. So many advantages both for employer and worker, not to mention the environmental with reduced pollution from cars in busy city centres.

Yes, I know that companies like Pret A Manger are feeling the pinch but as one commuter tweeted ‘horrifying to learn that if I don’t expose myself and everyone I care about to this virus then one of the five Pret A Mangers between the tube station and my office might become unprofitable’.

Galaxy Fri 28-Aug-20 14:24:44

I am afraid I couldn't care less about Costa coffee etc, if people are working from home they are more likely to be supporting the shops in the local area. It's not just about covid its about quality if life, I am not doing a 2 hour round commute to prop up Starbucks.

Galaxy Fri 28-Aug-20 14:26:14

In addition I have saved £700 since March by not going to Costa etc. Well I think the petrol costs may have contributed to that as well.

GrandmaKT Fri 28-Aug-20 14:30:37

I fear the reasoning behind this is to protect property prices in the cities - especially London. Boris will be coming under pressure from all the property-owning Tories to get people back into the cities and keep real estate prices sky high.

People have come to realise that there is an alternative to their crazy commuter lifestyles. I hope that this, combined with the money-saving advantages to the companies means we will have a real change. Things don't have to return to the way they were!

growstuff Fri 28-Aug-20 14:31:49

Landlords of commercial office buildings will lose income, if companies and their workers decide that working at home becomes a permanent way of working.

This was already beginning to happen. There are a number of local spaces with desks and WiFi for people who can work away from a central office, but maybe don't have the space to work at home.

It's another desperate plea from the government, threatening people with their job if they don't return to the office. However, I think it's going to fall on deaf ears. People have lost trust in government directives.

ayse Fri 28-Aug-20 14:32:29

My family see going to work as something they would like to do, maybe once or twice a week, rather than every day. Their employers also are now of the opinion that working from home works for them as well! Maybe now we could see more people being moved back into city centres with hopefully more food shops, less pollution and a better way of life.

This may sound like pie in the sky but it wouldn’t take a genius to reorganise round this premise.

FarNorth Fri 28-Aug-20 14:35:51

Too bad the UK government is so very far from being geniuses.

Ilovecheese Fri 28-Aug-20 14:40:22

Many people find change very scary though, and the way for people to feel secure is to pretend that we can go back to how things were before, exactly like they were before. The same way that if people pretend to themselves that the pandemic is over, then it will be over.

Our economy at the moment is over reliant on the "commuter economy" of coffee and sandwiches, but it wasn't always like that, and it can be different again.

I hope we can be more balanced in the future, balanced between work and home life, balanced between a service economy and manufacturing, balanced between city centres and high streets.

I agree about city centre properties, I live in Manchester and have been watching a TV program called "Manctopia" there are so many new building going up at the moment in our city centre, many of them owned by overseas investors as in London. Those investors will be very opposed to any reduction in the value of those ( mainly empty) properties,

suziewoozie Fri 28-Aug-20 14:45:20

It’s truly amusing, seeing a Tory Government being so well frankly so Stalinist. Cummings and Johnson think they can have what ever they want( until the next U turn that is). They are going to fall completely and utterly flat on their smug self satisfied faces with this. It’s interesting that the Cabinet is clearly showing a split on this as well. It’s not an either/ or - there are many models developing and I’m sure we’ll never go back to how we were.

GrannyGravy13 Fri 28-Aug-20 14:46:17

Not sure how I feel about this, just had a quick look at France and Germany stats and between 70-80% of office workers are back in their Offices, in the UK it’s approximately 35%.

Some people are happy to work from home for some or all of the week, others need the buzz and support of their co-workers and find home working stressful.

All well and good if you have a spare room or an office at home but when you are working at the kitchen or dining table your home is no longer your sanctuary from the outside world.

For those with underlying health issues or a household member who is shielding then they should have the option to extend their working from home.

prestbury Fri 28-Aug-20 14:50:34

Does not directly affect me as I am now retired but ex work colleagues are working from home and there is no pressure for them to return to the office environment. It works for them, it works for the company, win win all round. This will be the new normal as companies can make vast savings on expensive office space along with employees making savings on the daily commute.

My observations on the government statements are mixed, as much as the statements are.

Public transport is now abysmal with many services cut and "social distancing" supposed to be imposed. Why should employees now start to use public transport when it was such a definate no, at the risk of being crowded in the reduced services.

If the government really want the offices back to "normal" then lets start with parliament and getting MP's back to work, Civil Service and local Councils, get the staff back to work. If this is unworkable then don't expect private business to accept the need.

grumppa Fri 28-Aug-20 14:54:36

A collapse in commercial property values will hit the pension funds as well as the grasping Tory capitalists. But why should the pensioners on Gransnet worry about pension funds getting into difficulties?

growstuff Fri 28-Aug-20 15:02:39

How many office workers do you honestly think will go back to working in an office to keep pension funds afloat?

People shouldn't be "shamed" into going back to work in an office and having a long commute. It will work for some people, but not others.

Maybe pension fund managers should think of investing in superfast broadband in all areas of the country.

suziewoozie Fri 28-Aug-20 15:04:40

GG it’s not an either/or. There are many models being used which don’t involve kitchen tables. Some involve spending some time in and some time out of the office, some have those who want to going in, some involve hub and spoke with the use of serviced offices close to where the worker lives.Some businesses have already found that increased flexibility has increased their recruitment base and many report increased worker satisfaction. Too many people are trying to frame this discussion in the usual tedious dichotomous either/ or - all at home or all in the office. That’s just silly - we are going to see a much more flexible, varied situation. As for pension funds, it’s their responsibility to find other things to invest in which will develop the economy in different and more sustainable ways.

growstuff Fri 28-Aug-20 15:11:11

I agree with you 100%. Working in serviced offices and "hubs" closer to home was already beginning to happen and will continue. One of the problems in some semi-rural areas is poor broadband, which is why pension funds might want to look to investing in it.

growstuff Fri 28-Aug-20 15:14:05

Many people in offices have been "hot desking", which many dislike because they don't have a permanent work station. A "hot desk" could just as easily be on the kitchen table, a spare room or a remote hub.

Oopsminty Fri 28-Aug-20 15:16:17

What is concerning is that many of these jobs that can be done from home could be done from abroad. Cheaper staff. We've seen it with call centres. Is this why British employers are reluctant to re-open offices? It isn't just coffee shops that will suffer either.

Found an article from early August which shows just how behind Europe we are.

Only 34% of UK employees have gone back to the office, lagging behind the rest of Europe which averages 68%, AlphaWise, the research arm of US bank Morgan Stanley, has found.

In particular, Germany, Italy and Spain have seen return rates of around three-quarters, while France leads the way on 83%.

seacliff Fri 28-Aug-20 15:18:21

This situation has forced companies like mine to allow working from home, when they were very anti the idea before. They have found that for some employees it works well. ^ Others need supervision and cannot be trusted to work properly alone, others need the stimulus of the office.

I know people working in London advertising companies. They are now giving up their premise. People work from home, and have meetings when needed in a rented office suite.

Now this change has been experienced, some companies will not go back to the old way, in spite of what the government want.

In future, people buying a house may well consider the need for an office or extra room so they can work from home easily. There are savings on fuel, car costs, clothing and food. If people can work from anywhere, that presumably will affect house prices in London and big cities. Huge consequences, not all evident yet.

ayse Fri 28-Aug-20 15:22:20

I agree with ILoveCheese that our economy needs a better balance between service and manufacturing. This was initially a decision made by the Thatcher government. A case in point! Round Oak Steel in the Black Country had full order books when it was closed by Thatcher in c.1980-81. I know because me DH was employed by them. They made top quality steel, like Redcar and it was in great demand! Standing on the site now is Merryhill shopping centre. The steel works supported rolling mills and a huge number of smaller metal industries.

Consuming, IMO has lead to huge waste problems! As a country we should be investing in sustainability. A French energy producer has a whole department setting up to do just that. I’d prefer to pay more tax and see investment in sustainable industries, public transport and manufacturing. Instead we continue to believe that buying more stuff will save our economy.

SuzieWoo, the Tory government is more akin to Fascism as this was based on a Capitalist economy. The USSR was based on a planned economy. Having said this Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin seem rather akin to North Korea, USA and Britain right now.

Doodledog Fri 28-Aug-20 15:27:22

My first thought was that city property prices would be the driver in getting people 'back to work'. They are already working at home, so even the slogan is flawed.

I understand the psychological perspective, and (profits aside) there is a lot to be said for people feeling less stressed, but on the whole I think that if the fear of losing their livelihood is removed, a lot of people will be happier working at home, and stress levels will drop quite markedly.

This feels like a case of 'we need to do things this way because this is the way we've always done them', rather than a sensible assessment of the situation, which is that the world has changed and is likely to be different for the foreseeable future.

Whatever happens, though, someone needs to take the long view and not let things just 'happen'. This is a rare opportunity to reshape the way we live, and it would be such a shame to let it go.

High Streets have been on the decline for ages, and even more people are now buying online, so that decline is likely to gather pace. Instead of having boarded-up wastelands, we can move towards community hubs, where people go for leisure and companionship, rather than consumerism.

Unfortunately, this would need a government less interested in profit and more concerned about the happiness of the people, so there is a real risk that the opportunity will be lost. We, as voters and citizens need to make our voices heard, and to come up with some imaginative and innovative ideas for how to make the most of the changes that have been forced on us - who knows? Our grandchildren might look back on 2020 as the year things changed for the better.

AGAA4 Fri 28-Aug-20 15:27:33

It would be a shame to see city centres clogged up with commuters again. From the people I know who have been working from home, they have been given the option of carrying on with that and going into the office 2 or 3 times a month or full time in the office. Most have decided to work at home with just around a third back at the office.
We need to think of the environment and keep cars off the road as much as possible.

growstuff Fri 28-Aug-20 15:29:04

Oopsminty

What is concerning is that many of these jobs that can be done from home could be done from abroad. Cheaper staff. We've seen it with call centres. Is this why British employers are reluctant to re-open offices? It isn't just coffee shops that will suffer either.

Found an article from early August which shows just how behind Europe we are.

Only 34% of UK employees have gone back to the office, lagging behind the rest of Europe which averages 68%, AlphaWise, the research arm of US bank Morgan Stanley, has found.

*In particular, Germany, Italy and Spain have seen return rates of around three-quarters, while France leads the way on 83%.*

Yes, some of the jobs could go abroad, but some companies have actually been "repatriating" call centre jobs.

The jobs can only go abroad if there are the staff to do the jobs. Some of the jobs now being done at home are by very highly trained and experienced professionals. Countries with low wages have some way to go before their education systems catch up - although they're heading that way! (Watch out for Estonia and software development.) That's why it's short-sighted not to invest in high quality education in the UK - and teachers.

SueDonim Fri 28-Aug-20 15:31:15

I can’t see how working life can possibly go back to how it was, taking into account social distancing and public transport. It’s not as though pre-pandemic everyone was living an idyllic life, enjoying their daily commute and working in packed offices where presentee-ism was king.

It could be a chance to reset people’s work/life balance and to reset our city centres, by moving people into homes converted from offices and stopping them from being night-time deserts. New services will be required for that and having seen what independent businesses have achieved in recent months, I’m sure they will innovate to bring in new ideas.

The opportunity to work in the office should be made available to those who want it, but WFH should also be available, where possible. I don’t see why we can’t have both.

growstuff Fri 28-Aug-20 15:33:18

*Whatever happens, though, someone needs to take the long view and not let things just 'happen'. This is a rare opportunity to reshape the way we live, and it would be such a shame to let it go.

...

Unfortunately, this would need a government less interested in profit and more concerned about the happiness of the people, so there is a real risk that the opportunity will be lost. We, as voters and citizens need to make our voices heard, and to come up with some imaginative and innovative ideas for how to make the most of the changes that have been forced on us - who knows? Our grandchildren might look back on 2020 as the year things changed for the better.*

Oh! If only ...

sodapop Fri 28-Aug-20 15:35:22

I agree ayse there must be some middle way which rejuvenates town centres etc. Part time working from home and part of the time in the office.
All government depts should get back to work even in a part time capacity. There are of course many groups of people for whom working from home is not an option.