Businesses Left Confused by Government’s Mixed Messaging on Working From Home

Businesses and some Tory MPs have complained about the Government’s flip-flopping on its work from home guidelines, with Steve Baker warning that “an entire cohort of businesses which rely on office workers will be at risk if the Government doesn’t give a clear steer to employers”. The Telegraph has the story.

Back in March, the Prime Minister said Britain’s army of homeworkers have “had quite a few days off” and should soon make a “passing stab” at returning to offices. 

The Government’s work from home advice remained in place for four more months before Johnson shifted the responsibility to businesses, saying that the rest was for staff and employers “to work out for themselves”.  

The result of Johnson’s flip-flopping and mixed messaging has been that the prospect of a “big bang” as city centres returned to life has turned out to be more of a fizzle.

Tory MPs and many businesses that depend on the traffic of office workers are growing frustrated as central urban economies lag behind in the recovery.

“You struggle with getting any clear messages out of the Government really, and they all seem to be a bit distracted at the moment anyway,” says Brian Bickell, Chief Executive of West End landlord Shaftesbury. 

“There’s no reason not to come back to your office, public transport is perfectly safe… there’s no clarity of if you should go back, it’s just go back if you want to. I don’t know who they’re pandering to really.”

Experts expect more workers to return to offices from September, but whether it’s a trickle or a wave will be crucial for the future of many city centre businesses.

Johnson’s messaging has been stuck between making a full-throated endorsement for a return to offices and embracing the home working revolution. He is sitting out the big debate that will shape the future of Britain’s cities.

“Ministers need to decide whether they are willing to bear the consequences of mixed messages over whether to return to the office,” says Steve Baker, Deputy Chair of the Covid Recovery Group – an influential group of lockdown sceptic Tory MPs.

Worth reading in full.

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