The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

London Returns to Office

24 January 2022

London transport and offices have experienced a boom in traffic after the government announced the end of Plan B measures.

Officially in place from Thursday this week, the relaxation of COVID-19 prevention rules will include scrapping mask necessity and COVID passports for many events. This has also seen a big turn in the working from home advice, with many people already returning to places of work today. Mayor Sadiq Khan is keeping mask wearing as a condition of travel on Transport for London services currently.

Data this morning indicated that there was around 820,000 entry and exits on the Tube by 9am – that’s an increase of six per cent when compared to last Monday, and a 14 per cent rise from a fortnight ago, showing that thankfully the return to the offices has been happening gradually under guidance from employers rather than as a sudden rush after the announcement.


Civil Service Occupancy


Even so, the Civil Service will lead the way in a return to office working, with Ministers working with their Permanent Secretaries and departments to put in place measures to monitor office use and get people back to normal, pre-pandemic arrangements, with clear Ministerial expectations put in place.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said: “Now we are learning to live with COVID and have lifted Plan B measures, we need to move away from a reliance on video meetings and get back to the benefits of face-to-face, collaborative working.

“I’m grateful to the Civil Service for managing the challenges of the last two years. It is important that we now see the maximum use of our office space being made from next week, as we build a strong recovery after the disruption of the pandemic.

“The Civil Service has played a leading role in helping the country tackle the pandemic, with many front-line workers and office staff remaining in their places of work throughout the pandemic and many more working from home.

“Following the removal of Plan B measures, it is however vital that more staff return to the office so they can once again benefit from collaborative working in their public service delivery – this is particularly important for the learning and development of new members of staff, who have joined the Civil Service during the pandemic.”

The Minister’s call for government departments to enable a return to full capacity has been reiterated by the Cabinet Office’s Permanent Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Civil Service, Alex Chisholm, who has written to leaders across Whitehall asking them to support a significant and swift return of staff to the workplace.


Proceeding with Enthusiasm and Caution


Public health officials are warning commuters to stay vigilant with hygiene as the network becomes busier again. There were over 9,300 confirmed COVID-19 cases in London on Sunday. Despite this, there is palpable excitement and hope that the economy will benefit from a much needed boost. A new report by the Centre for Cities showed central London lost 47 weeks of sales between the first lockdown and the Omicron wave hitting.

The Evening Standard spoke to some workers in Victoria station this morning. “I’ve really missed the people,” said Ellen Hart, 23, travelling to her property consultancy. “That may be cheesy to say but I’m a graduate and still learning from people. It’s all the little things that you overhear in the office that stick with you. You can’t get that cooped up at home.”

This is an opportunity for working arrangements such as hybrid schemes to progress as a compromise between new and old idealisms for both employers and employees. Many will still be uncomfortable with the change – according to ONS figures, of working adults currently home working, 85 per cent wanted to use a "hybrid" approach of both home and office working in future. At the time of going to press, the official government guidance prioritises six main actions to protect their staff and visitors.

Paul Novak, deputy general secretary at the TUC, highlighted this in a conversation on BBC Radio 4. “What’s really important is rather than blanket mandates or unhelpful language about latecomers getting back to the office, employers have sensible conversations with their staff about how that return will happen, over what time scale, people’s preferred patterns of working, and crucially what can employers do to give people confidence that their workplace is COVID-secure and is as safe as possible.”


Picture: people on a busy London train. Image credit: Kyle Bushnell, Unsplash.


Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 24 January 2022


Related Articles

Reports Circulate of Christmas Work From Home Order in England

As Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urges employers to keep their staff working from home, is a similar mandated order on the way in England? Given the...

 Read Full Article
UK Government Introduces Day-One Right to Request Flexible Working

Millions of employees across the country are set to benefit from new legislation that means flexible working can be requested from the first day of employment. The...

 Read Full Article
Rees-Mogg Urges Civil Servants to Make Use of London Office Space

Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg, in a letter to cabinet colleagues, is urging civil servants to reduce how much time they spend working from home. In a letter...

 Read Full Article
IWFM Chief Says First Working Day of 2022 is a ‘Missed Opportunity for Millions of Office Workers’

Research from the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management indicates that not everyone is being afforded their first choice of workplace today. Tuesday 4...

 Read Full Article
Protecting Mental Health Under Plan B Restrictions

As we familiarise ourselves with Plan B restrictions, what can we do to help employees protect their mental health? The most recent Office for National Statistics data...

 Read Full Article
Working From Home? Get Ready for The Virtual Christmas Switch On

This Dublin-based digital office platform gives employees the opportunity to create their own virtual Christmas office. In light of the government’s new Plan B...

 Read Full Article
Flexible Working to Become Day One Right Under UK Law

The government has announced plans to make the right to request flexible working a legal right from day one of employment. Every employee will be given the right to...

 Read Full Article
Morgan Stanley Office Report Shows Steady UK Progress

The most recent Morgan Stanley AlphaWise report, one of a succession researching the trends throughout lockdown for offices, shows that UK estimates for returning to...

 Read Full Article
Building Services Contractors Must Consider Changes to Legal Liabilities 

The Building Safety Act is already changing the legal landscape for the building services profession, according to BESA. The association considers the extension of the...

 Read Full Article
Rishi Sunak’s Net-Zero Policy Changes – Industry Reactions

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has outlined new plans to dial back the UK’s net-zero policies, to mixed reactions from politicians, business groups and the general...

 Read Full Article