Rishi Sunak has said that working from home is not nearly as “valuable” for young people’s career progression as going into the office, after the government changed its guidance.
“The mentors I found when I first started my job I still talk to and they have been helpful to me even after we have gone in different ways. I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my internship or my first bit of my career over Teams and Zoom,” the chancellor said in an interview with LinkedIn.
“That’s why I think for young people in particular being able to physically be in an office is valuable.”
He cautioned against letting remote working become the norm, as ministers grow increasingly concerned about how a permanent shift away from offices may seriously dent economic recovery for towns and cities.
As the lion’s share of restrictions were lifted on 19 July, so to was the government’s formal “work from home if you can” advice. Instead, ministers “expect and recommend a gradual return over the summer” and have shifted the onus onto individual businesses and workers.
But caution is the word this time round, after Boris Johnson received widespread criticism for a campaign the government ran last summer inbetween the first and second wave of the virus, encouraging people to return to the office.
“We’ve kind of stopped saying that people should actively work from home and have now left it up to businesses to figure out the right approach,” Sunak said.
“In terms of a return to work . . . in keeping with everything else that we are doing it’s been gradual, it’s cautious, it’s careful, so there will be a gradual return back to the offices.”
The chancellor has been the most vocal advocate for a return to the office and has previously said how returning to the office is “really important” for those earlier on in their career, stressing the value of face-to-face interactions.
Recent figures from the Centre for Cities think tank show that footfall in central London in recent weeks is still only around 34 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.