London – Many workers are set to return to the office this week after work-from-home guidance was ditched in England.
But while some staff say they cannot wait to go back in, others are disappointed they can’t continue working from home full time.
It comes as coronavirus infection rates in the country remain high, and unions have raised concerns over safety.
However, city centre businesses are hoping for a much needed boost as commuters return to their offices.
According to a Centre for Cities report published on Monday, COVID-19 has cost businesses in city and large town centres more than a third (35%) of their potential takings and shut down thousands since March 2020.
Some employers have argued working from the office is more productive, with the boss of bank Goldman Sachs previously calling remote working an “aberration”.
But many believe flexible working is here to stay. An exclusive BBC survey found 70 per cent of 1 684 people polled do not believe workers will return to the office full-time when the pandemic subsides.
The BBC spoke to workers about how they felt about going back, and whether they expect things to be different this time around.
According to latest official figures, some 37 per cent of adults worked from home in 2020, with workers living in London the most likely to do so.
However, Ingrid has since changed to a role which meant she was required to work full-time in the office, until the government issued its work-from-home guidance.
She will be returning to the office on Monday, but said she was “mindful not to change back to old habits such as not moving from my seat” or “not taking lunch breaks”.
“Before I applied for the [new] role, I had to give it some real thought as to whether I was prepared to compromise a hybrid model,” she said.
“The tipping of the scale was the prospect of working in a new team in an environment that I really liked. On the days I have been back in person, I have enjoyed it very much – more than I thought I would.
“I was also given my own office in my new job, which really helps.”
‘I’m one of the lucky ones’
Benjamin Marlow, a fraud and crime data analyst for an insurance firm, told the BBC he returned to working from home full-time following the Omicron outbreak, having previously returned to the office for one day a week after the first lockdown.
The 35-year-old said he understood his employer was looking to introduce a “phased return”, with staff working in the office for two or three days a week.
Although he found working from home beneficial for his well-being and concentration levels, Mr Marlow said he was looking forward to it, as “it’s good for rapport-building with colleagues”.