An end to working from home? Probably not.
As at the beginning of July, 2021, government guidance in England is to work from home if you can. Following the resignation of Matt Hancock, Sajid Javid took over as Health Secretary and his first significant speech was to announce changes to the government's advice which would come into force on 19 July based on current data.
Whilst the government will no longer require working from home, many employers appear to be willing to look at a new way of structuring the the employees work, with opportunities for employees to spend some time in an office with colleagues, and the remainder working from home, or wherever is convenient for employees to get their job done.
The possibility of a vast reduction in office space is causing palpitations for some investors in commercial property. On of the most vocal complainers is Lord Sugar, whose Amsprop investment vehicle is significantly exposed. He tweeted on 5 July that is was time to get back to the office, and expressed concern for shops and cafes. It's possible that his concern is more focused on his own investments.
Boris says it's no longer necessary to work from home. So city people get back to the offices let's kick start the local economy for shops,cafes who suffered badly. Some people may have become complacent liking this new style of working.Well those folk will never work for me.— Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) July 5, 2021
Back in September of 2020, people were indicating their desire for a more flexible way of working with more than half of respondents wanting to either work from home full time, or part of the time. (https://yougov.co.uk/topics/economy/articles-reports/2020/09/22/most-workers-want-work-home-after-covid-19) The YouGov data was updated in April 2021, with more than 60% preferring to work away from the office at least some of the time. (https://yougov.co.uk/topics/economy/articles-reports/2021/04/13/one-five-want-work-home-full-time-after-pandemic)
The Evening Standard reported a mixed bag of opinions from FTSE 100 businesses about their plans for hybrid working in March 2021. (https://www.standard.co.uk/business/property/ftse-100-firms-london-office-wfh-b926855.html) Many companies appear to be accelerating plans that may have happened without the onset of COVID, albeit some years down the line.
Businesses have been forced to utilise software and technology infrastructure over the last 18 months and have proven that many people can be trusted to work from home, whilst some productivity has actually improved as commuting was taken out of the equation for many. Hybrid working seems to be something the majority of office-based staff want to embrace moving into the future, and some employers are going to find they have an exodus of staff if they insist on a full return to the office.