This is how remote work was imposed in the United Kingdom despite resistance from the “establishment.”

Two years after the most severe phase of the Covid pandemic ended, all places have reopened, masks have disappeared and restrictions have ended. But there is a “side effect” of the virus that continues to have a full impact on the UK economy, especially London: remote working. Despite attempts by the Conservative government and many newspapers to nudge workers back to the office, figures show that the decline in face-to-face workers is still impacting activity in the office district, “the city”, hitting the sandwich shops head-on and raising questions about the future of the company’s headquarters. The big one.

Occupancy data indicates that office buildings in the United Kingdom's historic commercial center have disappeared from… Occupancy is from more than 95% in 2019 to 84.5% this year. London Underground data confirms this data: at the Bank of England station, the number of passengers has halved compared to 2019; And At the 15 central stations, the number of passengers fell on average by 100,000 per day. All this despite the fact that the capital's city council expects the number of tourists to actually exceed the number of tourists in 2019, so the fault does not lie with the visitors: but with Londoners themselves.

This data is seen very clearly in Prepare sales statistics for the manager, one of the main sandwich shops where UK office workers usually go to eat. Its data is so useful for calculating economic activity that the British Office for National Statistics – the equivalent of Spain's National Institute – keeps an index of its weekly sales. And what we see is consistent with the company’s calculations: its sales already far exceed those of 2019, but its strength is in airports and residential areas, where purchases of workers who were previously in the city have moved. However, in the office area, pre-epidemic data has not yet been recovered.

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But the blow was most pronounced in Canary Wharf, the city's trendiest financial district that was designed in the 1980s to attract all the big companies that moved to London and were attracted by the deregulation championed by Margaret Thatcher. In recent months, such companies Multinational bank HSBC or law firm Clifford Chance have announced their next move From Canary Wharf to the small buildings left vacant in the City, due to the lack of workers to occupy all the available tables in their giant offices.

According to real estate firm Knight Frank, Demand for office space in London fell by 20%Half of multinational companies expect to reduce their workspace by half in the next three years. The situation may get worse as many of these buildings, built in the second half of the 20th century, age: 60% of the offices need extensive redesign to adapt to the government's new energy requirements, which will come into force in 2027. And many of their owners They think about whether it is worth investing all this money with this change in the business model.

The pressures don't work

What seems clear is that remote working is here to stay in the UK. The number of days worked remotely has remained stable since 2021 at 1.4. This is despite the fact that more than half of workers cannot work remotely due to the demands of their work, which means that The 44% who do this spend an average of 3 days a week. In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of remote workers is at its highest level since the third and final UK lockdown ended in April 2021.

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All this despite the fact that neither businessmen nor the government support it. According to a LinkedIn study, 49% of companies want their employees to spend more time in the office, and another 10% have completely canceled remote work., concerned about “lack of productivity.” Google, without going any further, bought the building in London where it worked to “represent Google's continued confidence in the office as a place for collaboration and personal communication,” a thinly veiled reference to the remote work its employees are widely requesting. .

Meanwhile, the governments of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss have spent 2022 asking workers to return to their offices to “not damage their careers” and “re-energize the economy”. Without much success: half of the officials continue to work remotely several days a week.

The greatest example of the difficulty of returning staff to their offices is exemplified by one of the British Conservative Party's leading newspapers, the Daily Mail, which hired Johnson as a columnist after his resignation. The newspaper publishes editorials throughout the year calling for an end to remote work and threatening employees with physical mutilations if they do not return to their offices.

But those who have not stopped working remotely are newspaper employees, who still have the option to do so if they want. The best example of this is one columnist, Richard Littlejohn, who recently wrote an article arguing that “everyone working remotely means firing someone else,” citing a decline in sandwich sales and activity in “the City.” All this before explaining that he wrote this article from home, “as I have done for the past 30 years.” It seems that more and more workers want to follow his example more than his words.

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