Boris Johnson has called on people to return to their offices and ditch remote working, with the Prime Minister urging young people to embrace traditional working patterns.
Johnson said in his keynote Conservative party conference speech today that a “productive workforce” only comes from “face to face meetings and water cooler gossip”.
The government has taken a mostly hands-off approach when it comes to people getting back into offices and central business areas post-Covid.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been vocal about how people should return to the office to spark productivity and lift footfall for retail and hospitality businesses, however Johnson has mostly stayed quiet on the issue this year.
Footfall in central London is now at its highest point since March last year, however it is still around 30 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels.
During his speech at Tory party conference today, Johnson said: “As we come out of Covid our towns and cities are again going to be buzzing with life, because we know that a productive workforce needs that spur that only comes with face to face meetings and water cooler gossip.
“If young people are to learn on the job in the way that they always have and must we will and must see people back in the office.”
It comes after London minister Paul Scully told City A.M. this week that it was unlikely the government would tell people to work from home again this winter.
Johnson last month outlined potential measures he could take if there is a Covid-19 winter surge that puts too much pressure on the health service, such as mandatory vaccine passports for large events and enforced mask wearing.
Telling people to work from home is also an option, which would scupper the recovery of central London’s retail and hospitality sectors.
However, Scully said it seemed unlikely this will happen.
“I think we have various other interventions to make sure we can tackle any spikes and outbreaks, I hope we don’t see the need to go to plan b, plan a is very much trusting people to do the right thing and giving people back their lives again and that includes workplaces,” he said.
“I think there is a natural balance that is gradually being found with hybrid working, so I don’t think we’re going to necessarily need to push people back to their houses.
“I think we’ve weakened the link significantly between case numbers and hospitalisations and deaths.”