Survey of leading London businesses finds start of gradual return to office working

Survey of leading London businesses finds start of gradual return to office working

Staff are beginning to return to leading London business workplaces, but anxiety about using public transport and a shortage of summer childcare remain significant barriers, according to a survey of its members by a leading London business.

Of the 100 business leaders whose views were obtained at the end of last month by London First – almost three quarters said they now have some some staff back in the office, though at most only 20 per cent, while seven per cent said none have yet returned.

Over one third (37 per cent) of businesses have moved staff to different working locations, the survey found, compared with 63 per cent using the same space as before the pandemic. A large majority say their premises are now “Covid-secure” with most of the others working towards that.

Almost all the employers – 95 per cent – said they believe concerns over using public transport are a barrier to staff returning to workplaces, and 68 per cent mentioned problems getting childcare.

Significantly, 43 per cent said they think a preference for working from home is a factor. A  very similar percentages of bosses (41 per cent) said they think they will require less office space in future (while remaining committed to a lease), while 42 per cent said they intend to retain the same amount of space.

Seventy per cent of firms surveyed said they believe a return to the office is important for productivity compared with just 20 per cent who think it isn’t, while, at the same time, half of them believe remote working will become a permanent part of how the majority of their staff work. A quarter think it will become permanent for “some” staff and 21 per cent think it will be for all of them.

A substantial 86 per cent said the “loss of in-person collaboration” as a been a “big negative” of the huge switch to remote working, but 60 per cent say they will be investing in more home-working equipment. Seventy-eight per cent said they plan to re-think workspaces to facilitate “more hybrid working” and 71 percent said they will adjust to more flexible working practices.

London First chair Paul Drechsler said “business leaders are backing the capital and gearing up to bring back those ready to return”. He urged the government to end “the messaging muddle and work flat out with public transport operators to boost confidence in the transport system”.

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