Britain’s biggest businesses will work from home until 2021

Linda J. Dodson

Vodafone said that those employees who can work remotely “will continue to do so until the end of 2020” and BP said that the “overwhelming majority” will stay out of the office for the foreseeable future.

British American Tobacco said that workers have “managed the transition to working from home brilliantly and while we would all love a return to normality, until it is absolutely safe to do, we will be encouraging them to continue as they are”.

Rio Tinto has not asked any of its staff to return to its London headquarters, which remain closed, and Royal Bank of Scotland said that “global guidance” means that they will be out of the office until 2021.

BT, which will start a “phased return” of its 40,000 staff who have been working from home in September, said that “the key concern for our colleagues is commuting and especially public transport”.

Legal & General Group were one of the few firms with a target for return, but even this was 80 per cent of the workforce attending for a day or two a fortnight with no set date revealed.

The companies follow tech giants such as Twitter and Facebook in telling staff that they do not have to commute.

But there are fears of the damage that the decision could do to the economy, which Britain’s city centres deserted and stores which support and feed office workers, such as Pret, warning of closures.

Research by Morgan Stanley has found that Britons are slower to return than their peers in France, Germany, Italy or Spain as only a third have gone back to the office compare to almost three quarters on the continent.

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said: “Employers have spent a lot of time and effort preparing their workplaces for the safe return of their staff. While the guidance has changed, it will be up to individual firms to decide what’s best for their business and their people.

“Businesses have adapted well and are now thinking about their office requirements in the future. In any case, public health considerations must come first and companies know the return to offices must not risk an infection spike.

“Changing people’s behaviour and confidence will take time. The re-opening of schools and childcare support, continued improvements to test and trace, and public transport, will be key enablers to achieving that.”

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