In late February, the UK government set out its four-step “roadmap” for easing its most recent lockdown restrictions. In the process, it revealed that guidance to staff to work from home where possible would not be altered until 21 June at the earliest.
A week prior to that date, a review will be published to inform any update the government makes to its advice on working from home. Until then, the guidance for normally office-based workers is still to continue largely working from home where feasible.
Any change in guidance for such staff therefore looks set to coincide with the lifting of all legal restrictions on contact with others, and large closed venues such as nightclubs being permitted to open their doors once more.
What does the government’s roadmap document state?
The government’s document released alongside the announcement of the “roadmap” – COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 – states: “Social distancing is difficult and damaging for businesses and, as a result, it is important to return to as near to normal as quickly as possible.
“Ahead of Step 4, as more is understood about the impact of vaccines on transmission and a far greater proportion of the population has been vaccinated, the government will complete a review of social distancing measures and other long-term measures that have been put in place to limit transmission.”
Disagreement as to whether a ‘new normal’ looms
Presuming the advice on home working is finally revised towards the end of June, many workers will have spent a significant proportion of the previous 15 months away from the office. This has raised questions about the likely extent to which these personnel will return full-time to the office as previous limits are gradually lifted.
Various City and international firms, for instance, have already indicated that they won’t need as much office space as they did before the coronavirus crisis, due to the likelihood of people needing to come into the office less often.
Indeed, it seems probable that many employees in the long term will devote three or four of their working days each week to the office, and the rest to working from home.
However, one high-profile sceptic on suggestions that the pandemic could help bring profound and lasting change in this area, is seemingly the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
Mr Johnson commented in a Downing Street press conference: “The better remote communication gets and the more people can see each other and talk on mobile devices, as a paradox the more actually they want to see each other face to face.”
“That, I’m sure will come back. I think that London and our great cities will be filled full of buzz and life and excitement again.”
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