Ministers are reportedly being told to send a “clear message” to civil servants for a “rapid return” to offices.
Up to three quarters of staff are still working from home, according to The Telegraph, as Whitehall sources accuse a “silent majority” of officials of not “pulling their weight.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for government efficiency, has urged all secretaries of state, and has also sent a table detailing how many staff in each government department where in the office on an average day, starting April 4, according to the report.
“Now that we are learning to live with Covid and have lifted all legal restrictions in England, we must continue to accelerate the return of civil servants to office buildings to realise the benefits of face-to-face, collaborative working and the wider benefits for the economy,” Rees-Mogg reportedly wrote.
“To deliver this, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Steve Barclay, and I, urge you to issue a clear message to civil servants in your department to ensure a rapid return to the office.
“[This] is subject to existing legal obligations, including but not limited to, equality and discrimination considerations and statutory rights to request flexible working arrangements.”
It follows research present at the Royal Economic Society last week spelling out the woes for the retail and hospitality industries should workers continue to favour working from home.
Pubs, cafes and restaurants in city and town centres stand to lose £3bn of spending a year as office staff continue to split their working weeks between the office and their home.
As many as 77,000 jobs in retail and hospitality could either be lost or relocated with a permanent reduction in the amount spent on coffees and lunches in central locations – with the City of London most affected, as economists forecast spending could plunge by a third.
However, data shared exclusively with City A.M. today has cautioned that bosses who shelve flexibility should prepare for a “wave of departures”, as workers opt for a greater work-life balance.
Though, one Whitehall source added: “The pandemic shouldn’t be an excuse for a new normal. Government departments were full all the time beforehand and we shouldn’t use the pandemic as an excuse to change that.”
A government spokesperson said: “Ministers have been clear that departments should make maximum use of office space and progress is being monitored.”