Spring is in the air and the sound of footfall is increasingly common across the City of London. Lunchtime queues at popular Square Mile’s cafes, restaurants and shops are spilling out across our streets and this renewed buzz – particularly midweek – is bringing back the creative energy that is the lifeblood of the City.
This return of workers is vital to support our businesses and maintain a vibrant ecosystem. Walking around it is clear that people are happy to be back and speaking to colleagues in person rather than through a screen.
Younger staff in particular are receiving the kinds of training and guidance that they missed out on during various lockdowns. I know from my own professional life as a lawyer in the City that the learning experiences received by working alongside more senior colleagues are irreplaceable and impossible to replicate online.
The City of London Corporation earlier this year launched a Covid-19 Recovery Grant Scheme to help tide over Square Mile businesses which were hit by the restrictions introduced in response to the omicron variant. I would encourage eligible businesses to apply for this scheme before the deadline at the end of this week.
But a sustainable recovery depends on people coming back to work and enjoying the City’s many attractions, which we are showcasing through our Square Smile campaign.
The importance of the return of workers to our Square Mile businesses cannot be overstated, especially for those sectors that rely on footfall.
Humans are not hard wired to be isolated and the benefits to be gained from physically working together have been amply proven. Those moments of serendipity give rise to ideas, professional development through observation and social interaction which helps to reinforce teamworking. These are not only career enhancing, but they are also life affirming.
With this in mind, I urge businesses to take note of new polling which shows that there is a real appetite from employees for a return to their City workplace.
The poll, conducted for the City Corporation by FTI Consulting, asked workers about their views on post-pandemic working trends.
The results speak clearly. The majority of respondents (55 per cent) indicated a clear desire to be back in the office more often, a figure which increased to 57 per cent for Millennials and Generation Z. An additional 68 per cent recognised the clear career benefits of the office environment for professional advancement and growth.
Of course, the Square Mile is home to much more than just offices and the wider ecosystem is a key part of our appeal. The findings reinforce the need to continue to broaden our offer, with 61 per cent agreeing that the City should be better used for work and leisure. We want to be a vibrant 24/7 destination for workers and visitors.
This vision can only be realised by workers coming back, allowing businesses to flourish and in turn creating a virtuous circle that encourages more people to return.
The City has for centuries been a world leading global business centre and a cultural destination. From Roman times to today, it has been a hub of commerce and leisure, a place in which to work, to meet and to play. After a difficult winter, I urge people to seize the moment to return to the City and make sure we remain a vibrant hub for generations to come.