Written by: Keith Tully
A prolonged continuation of the work-from-home policies adopted by companies across the UK in recent months could cost the economy in the region of £480 billion over the next few years.
That’s according to research carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), which suggests that a lack of people working within office spaces will notably hinder the UK’s recovery from the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Indeed, the consultancy firm has said that having as many professionals working from home as have been for much of 2020 could mean it’ll take until 2025 for the UK’s GDP to return to pre-pandemic levels.
CEBR is owned by Douglas McWilliams, formerly the chief economic adviser to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), who is warning of the potential impact of widespread working from home.
“If we carry on working at home when at least half want to return, we run the risk of turning into a 90 per cent economy stuck a 10th down off its peak,” Mr McWilliams is quoted as telling the Guardian.
Employers across major cities and much of the country encouraged their teams to work from home rather than their offices as coronavirus spread and it became clear just how easily the virus could be transmitted from person to person in enclosed spaces.
Many jobs cannot be done properly from home but for a sizable proportion of the working population a shift to home working has been relatively seamless and it is now somewhat unclear when or why they might return to their old offices.
However, business lobby groups including the CBI have highlighted the issue that not having people working from offices presents threats to the viability of retailers and other companies who provide services to commuters and office occupiers.
The sandwich and coffee shop chain Pret a Manger recently announced it was cutting its workforce by 3,000 in the near-term after its revenues plummeted in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
Meanwhile, a growing number of large-scale employers, including accountancy giants and banking firms, have indicated their willingness to allow their staff to continue working from home into 2021 and potentially on a permanent basis.
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