Should I stay or should I go now?
That, of course, was the famous line from the Clash in the 1970s. This is exactly the conundrum facing many workers as they make a monumental decision regarding a return to the office.
It’s a strange thing that we were asked to lockdown to save the NHS being swamped
Now we are being directed to go back to work to save the economy. It feels like we are pawns in a political chess game where we might well be sacrificed for a greater prize. Yet, that aside, it is obvious that cities and towns are struggling with a lack of footfall.
'Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?We danced and sang, and the music played in a de boomtown' The Specials
For example, Parts of the Canary Wharf complex in London can expect around 150 000 workers to arrive every day. Currently they are seeing only around 10 000 people. The knock-on effect on hospitality, cafes, bars, restaurants and other associated businesses has been catastrophic.
Centre for Cities, which is a think tank that exists to explore our urban environment, has been researching our current situation for a study regarding home working. Their Chief Executive surmised that around 40% of workers based in London offices could actually do what they do from home. That simple percentage actually equates to a drop of 2 million workers and that is massive. Imagine the knock on effect if this was to continue as a long term trend.
In addition, TfL are looking for a second bail out come September
Passenger numbers have dropped dramatically. They expect to potentially lose £500 million. So, what happens to people that have no choice but to go out to work? Will the least well paid be facing huge hikes in transport costs? What a conundrum!
However, do we not need to consider how we have allowed an economy to rely on food, drink and hospitality for its very existence. When we know that obesity is a main contributor to how a person copes with Covid 19 isn’t this a time to spring clean our attitude to take outs and food grabbed on the go? Isn’t it time we took a leaf from some of our European neighbours and stop for a midday meal – if we intend to return to the office at all?
This pandemic has demonstrated that our reliance on cheap, quick food is actually killing us
Yes, it is fuelling the economy and the insistence on annual growth, but it is also fuelling very unhealthy eating habits. What the lock down did teach us is that home cooked food is a pleasure and is far better for us. Many have used this opportunity to completely change what they eat and how they cook.
In addition, many have discovered the true cost of going out to work.
Think about savings that have been made in the accoutrements surrounding working from the office. From office birthdays, to rounds of drinks, from cakes and treats, transport costs to shoe leather. All these things have been slashed since we started working from home. Are we really ready to sacrifice those savings, add journey time and also risk infection when travelling with other members of the public?
What are you going to do?
Work from home, work in the office part time, or return full time? It is a decision that many companies are making now that the stigma regarding home working has been disregarded. We made it work effectively through the pandemic and we’d like to continue. Yes, we miss colleagues, we miss the chat and business information that is swapped along the corridor or by the coffee machine. But really, is that a reason to return to office life. Isn’t it time we transformed some of the office space into light, airy residential blocks? If we replace office workers by residents then the economy will survive, albeit in a slightly altered form. It will be a chance to redesign our cityscapes to reflect the need for a greener more sustainable lifestyle. In my opinion returning to business as normal is the last thing we need to do. Does that sound crazy? I’d love to know what you think and what your work plans are as we move through Q3.