Bankers and accountants are among those being summoned back to their offices after the government scrapped its work-from-home guidance in England with immediate effect.
Businesses rushed out memos to staff today after Boris Johnson urged workers, including those in government, to “get back to work”. Further restrictions — such as mandatory face coverings in public places — will be dropped next week.
Most have chosen to re-adopt the policies they had in place before Christmas, before the government’s Plan B came into force in response to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment bank, confirmed that it had asked its staff to return to its offices, while bankers at Citigroup were told that they need to be coming in “at least three days a week” from now on.
David Livingstone, Citi’s European chief executive, told staff that, when in the office, “we are better able to generate the energy and collaborative spirit on which Citi thrives”.
HSBC staff started going back into the office today and Standard Chartered has asked employees to come in from Monday, although both will continue to let employees work flexibly.
JP Morgan is yet to tell its staff what its exact plans are, but bosses are expected to revert to their pre-Omicron guidance, with most staff coming into the office for at least some of the week.
Many others have adopted a similar approach. PwC, the Big Four accountancy group, messaged its staff telling them that they should be spending two or three days a week either in the office or on site with clients.
That hybrid model was originally brought in last summer before it was paused over December and January reflecting the government’s guidance.
British Airways also emailed workers at its Heathrow headquarters that it, too, would be returning to its pre-Omicron hybrid policy.
The travel industry is expected to be one of the big winners now that the government has ditched its advice to work from home and as people start visiting clients and factories in-person again. Hospitality businesses are also buoyed by the prospect of more workers returning to city and town centres having missed out on the lucrative pre-Christmas trading period because of the renewed coronavirus fears.
Clive Watson, chairman of the City Pub Group, said that people heading back into offices “will be a much-needed boost” for pubs, bars and restaurants.
Rob Pitcher, the boss of Revolution Bars, expects the government’s change of tune on working from home to “actively help build consumer confidence” after a “wave of corporate cancellations” over Christmas.
Alistair Elliott, chairman of Knight Frank, the property agent, said the ending of Plan B restrictions was a “relief”. He added: “This time I don’t think there’ll be a return [to restrictions]. We’ve really got to assume that this is now the point of no return and we can really gear up to get our cities back to life, which is much-needed.”