Rishi Sunak urges workers to get back into the office after lockdown

26 March 2021, 06:27

The Chancellor is urging offices to open after lockdown ends
The Chancellor is urging offices to open after lockdown ends. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Rishi Sunak has warned staff may quit their jobs if they are not provided with an office, as he urged firms to reopen their workspaces after lockdown.

The Chancellor made his plea on the week of the year anniversary of Covid-19 lockdown, in which office workers have spent a full 12 months working from home.

There was a push by the Government to get workers back in the workplace in the Summer, but repeated lockdowns have once again forced workers to work from their kitchen tables or makeshift desks.

But Mr Sunak has said staff may "vote with their feet" and quit roles where they were not provided with an office.

Read more: Covid lockdown laws extended for another six months despite major Tory revolt

Companies across the UK are now looking at how to tackle the issue of remote versus office working once lockdown ends, with many backing a hybrid model as employees seek to remain working from their homes part-time.

But Mr Sunak has touted the benefits of the physical workplace, telling The Daily Telegraph and The Sun the opportunities afforded in an office cannot be beaten.

"You can't beat the spontaneity, the team building, the culture that you create in a firm or an organisation from people actually spending physical time together," he said.

Young people reaped the benefits of proximity to experienced mentors when working in an office, he added.

"Imagine you've just left college or university you start this job in a big company and you're sitting at home on your own," Mr Sunak told The Sun.

Read more: Govt struggles to defend six-month extension to lockdown powers

Analysis: Why rebel Tories say the data for lifting lockdown is on their side

"How do you get to know your peers, how do you learn the culture of an organisation, how do you get those mentors, which are important for your career development?"

Millions of people across the country have been working from home
Millions of people across the country have been working from home. Picture: PA

It comes after prominent figures - such as Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey - have declared in recent weeks that they believe the five-day-a-week office commute is over.

On Thursday, Nationwide Building Society unveiled plans to allow 13,000 employees to choose where they work.
The lending giant said it would put office staff in control of deciding where they were based according to their job once the latest Covid-19 restrictions ended, after more than half - 57% - said they wanted to work from home full-time.

More than a third - 36% - said they preferred a mix of home and office-based work.

In other news, last night MPs voted in favour of a six-month extension to the government's coronavirus lockdown legal powers despite fierce criticism from Tory rebels.

The vote to extend the Coronavirus Act passed by 484 to 76, a 408 majority, in the face of vociferous opposition from a number of Conservative rebels over the past week.Ministers consider the extension of restrictions as a necessary part of Boris Johnson's roadmap out of England's lockdown, despite the prime minister previously saying it was "irreversible".

However, backbench Tories responsible for the rebellion have branded the plan "disproportionate, extreme, and wholly unnecessary" due to their infringement on civil liberties.

They have also argued that the success of the vaccination programme means lockdown measures are not needed for this long, given that the PM expects all restrictions to be lifted by 21 June.

Some 35 Conservatives, 21 Labour MPs and 10 Liberal Democrats were among those who voted against extending coronavirus laws, the Commons division list shows.

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