On 22nd February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown. The four-step plan will see lockdown and other restrictions gradually eased. The final fourth step will see all legal limits on social distancing removed along with the reopening of any remaining closed sectors in the economy. Step four is planned to happen on 21st June at the earliest.
On 16th March 2020, Boris Johnson made his first of a regular number of press conferences. Addressing the nation, he instructed that people should start working from home where possible. Over the next few days, many offices became empty or occupied by only a skeleton support staff. One of London’s financial complexes, Canary Wharf, now only sees 6,000 people a day on site. Prior to the pandemic, the daily total was over 100,000. From 21st June, the proposed lifting of remaining restrictions will mean that those working from home can return legally and safely to their regular place of work 1.
Many people are expected to return to work gradually whilst others are expected to split their week between home and the office. A survey conducted by Lloyds Banking Group found that nearly 80% of staff want to work from home for at least three days a week. Following the survey, the company intends to reduce its office space by 20% over the next two years. The company currently has 65,000 employees, 55,000 of whom are working from home 2.
David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs has said that throughout 2020 less than 10% of the company’s staff were working from their office. He is eager for all staff to return to their regular place of work when permitted and has rejected the idea that working from home is the new normal. Mr Solomon suggested that working from home does not fit in with the culture of the firm, which relies on collaborative and innovative working 3. Post pandemic, research has shown that with the number of people not returning to their regular place of work, unused office spaces could cost businesses £13bn. Many companies are already looking to sublease their office space; subleased office availability in London has risen by 15% since the start of the pandemic 4. The effect the new shape of working will have on pension schemes, many of which are invested in property, is yet to be determined. The potential lower occupancy levels will also have a knock-on effect on many associated businesses from facilities management and security to catering and transportation suppliers.