Returning to work?

To many people working long hours at home to do what they used to do from an office it is strange to be told now is the time for them to go back to work. It is even odder to be urged back by the Head of the CBI who then concedes that she has not herself been working from the expensive HQ of the CBI in central London in recent weeks. She may decide to work just two days a week from the London office from next month to show willing or to get through the obvious interview questions about her advice to others.

Something has changed in the mood of both employers and employees as a result of the CV 19 crisis. Yes, the immediate reason for the mass exodus from city centre offices was a combination of government instruction and fear of the virus. As the virus has receded and as companies and transport systems have tried to reassure about safety other issues have come to the fore that were there long before the pandemic hit.

More people were seeking and gaining flexible contracts which allowed them to work just part of the week in the office and have more time off work for family and domestic reasons, or to work some of the time from home. There was a growing expectation that employers would allow parents to take time out of a working day to attend school events or care for their children. Employers became more flexible about everything from dentist appointments to weddings and funerals, and from sports sessions to shopping. They allowed some of this to fit into the working day. Office computers were used by staff to plan holidays or buy items on line, so staff were not always working for the employer when at the employer’s premises.

The lock down crystalised a couple of things for employees. They found in many cases they could do all their work from home given on line technology and an office in the cloud.It was a huge bonus to save the large amounts of time and money taken up by the daily commute. They could punctuate the working day at home with the drinks, meals and domestic chores of their choice. They could extend their working time into the travel and home time of their old lives to compensate if they took some of the day time for a personal need.

It also surprised employers. They found that many employees worked just as hard or even harder when trusted to work from home. Many of the employers themselves came to value the freedom it gave them in their own personal lives, no longer under under observation from employees of how much time they spent in the office. It could lead on to economies for the company, though most so far are paying the rents on the largely empty offices and delaying big strategic decisions about how much space and what type of space they will in due course need.

Of course there are issues that need managing with a workforce more at home than in the office. Those who gamed the system in the office can game the system more easily when at home. Good managers stay in regular touch with homeworkers and assess their contributions and send sufficient work to them. Meetings and informal discussions can be an important part of resolving problems, innovating and improving service. People have to be encouraged to pick up the phone or the on line link as regularly as they had informal talks in the office. In practice in offices colleagues increasingly talked to each other by email anyway. Teams need to get together in person as well as on video link , which managers can decide and supervise.

Homeworking and the virus should not become an excuse for reducing service levels or building inconvenience and delay in for the customer. Some of the most competitive businesses, like the on line retailers, have shown you can raise service standards and take on more work even against the background of the virus and enforced social distancing.

It is difficult to forecast what might now happen. Some think there will be a gradual return to five day office working and we will restore the rush hour, the five day commute and the busy city centre in due course. Some think employers and employees will over the next few months evolve new ways of getting the work done and dividing up their time, with on line emails, conference calls and video meetings playing a permanently larger role in our lives. If sufficient businesses decide to allow substantially more homeworking in the mix then we will see lost jobs and lost businesses in city centres, along with lower office rents and some office conversions to other uses. There will also need to be big changes to trains, buses and tubes as they adjust to the two or three day week season ticket and the staggering of hours.

Meanwhile the parlous situation in city centres for small businesses is also the result of continuing social distancing rules, the absence of tourists and the cancellation of many events and entertainments.

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  1. Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    How long before people working from home find there jobs outsourced to another country?

    Unless the Government end ALL restrictions they will never get people back to work.

    Macron not ruling out another full lock down. Parisians interviewed in saying they agree with the new law saying masks must be worn outside. Ordinary people being terrified into conforming.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:25 am | Permalink

      How long before people working from home find ** their ** jobs outsourced to another country

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        This disaster to business is of the govts own making. Destroying the economy more than it thought possible. Of course people will not return to work, business will adapt because the Fake Tory govt cannot be trusted to stick to any policy or course of action. Who can plan a business on that basis!

        3/10 for the spin JR. Stop papering over the govts disasterous effects on the economy. When will the strap line or narrative appear we have a hotel crisis- all filled with immigrants ? Much better off than pensioners, they even get free TV without a license!

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Permalink


      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        Well, outsourcing does not always work. People often do not like call centres where thay talk to ‘Alan’ in Mumbai and have difficulty with the accent and the line delays. Some firms have abandoned this and are returning to UK call centres. Cheaper ain’t always best.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      ‘Terrified into conforming’? A very conspiracy-theorist statement. Mask-wearing reduces infections thereby allowing people to get on with their lives. I’d happily take the mild inconvenience of simple hygiene measures over another lockdown.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:07 am | Permalink

        We were told masks were pointless by scientists. No research has been done to change that. If you can smell through a mask a virus will go through as mask.

        Total Covid 19:84 related deaths reported in all Europe yesterday: 339 out of 741,400,000 people. (worldometers website)

        That’s down from a couple of days ago.

        The second ripple is clearly over.

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:24 am | Permalink

          Indeed and with perhaps 30,000 daily deaths from all causes in Europe.

          Get back to work.

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:43 am | Permalink

            Meanwhile, head in the sand, Government ploughs on with its £100+ billion HS2 programme, which has become ever more uneconomic.

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

            Indeed HS2 was completely idiotic already now it is totally insane. Government ministers like to defend these projects by saying “people are against these project until they are finished and then they like them and use them”. Well yes if you build something worth perhaps £2 billion at a cost of £100+ billion people will use the £2 billion asset you deliver. No one sees all the sensible investments of the £98 billion that were cancelled due to excessive taxation to fund the insane HS2 project. Concorde the Millennium Dome, much of space exploration, most renewables grants and other green lunacy, hundreds of these mad vanity projects and agendas.

            Time to update the excellent book “The Bumper Book of Government Waste: Brown’s Squandered Billions” perhaps?

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:02 am | Permalink

            What about the ones working from home. Do they need to ‘get back to work’?

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:23 am | Permalink

          The masks you see people wearing aren’t designed to stop a solitary virus. Their purpose is to stop him and his mates hitching a ride on a globule of spit. And that down-tick you – and I – see on Worldometer, much of that will be down to mask-wearing.

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:13 am | Permalink

            SW that’s pretty much the way I see it…

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:30 pm | Permalink


          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

            Sorry, Sea Warrior, I don’t see a ‘downtick’ on Worldometer – quite the reverse. Worldometer says that from 24th July (mask-wearing in shops enforced) to 28th August, UK Covid ‘cases’ increased from 768 to 1,276. The infection rate rose over the same period from 0.5% to 0.7% ( No evidence here that masks are doing any good.

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

            What down tick? Deaths have been flatlining well before muzzling. There is not one scintilla of hard evidence that muzzle wearing makes any difference whatsoever. Indeed all previous RCTs indicated this fact.


          • Posted August 30, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

            Sea Warrior, Neither of your assertions are entirely true. The roll off in deaths in the UK started on 10th April, months before mask wearing was either advised or became compulsory.

            Transmission is also by surface contamination as well, which masks may exacerbate rather than reduce – it would probably be more effective to wear rubber gloves in supermarkets rather than masks.

            Then there is the oddity of the government repeatedly saying face-coverings were not necessary during February, March, April, and part of May – exactly when the pandemic was at its height – yet making face-coverings mandatory when the pandemic has died away. Aren’t you even a little bit interested why?

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:45 am | Permalink

          Ever tried the “vape test” with a mask…or several types even?
          The vape escapes every which way…every time.
          And considering that a virus is filterable through the finest porcelain….well….

          “ Listed buildings? Oh no sorry, that’s Sharon. She’s working from home. But she’ll be back in the office Friday.” Click. Silence.

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

            It is also about exposure time . a virus cannot replicate without having a host. It doesn’t become a living thing until it unites with living cells.

        • Posted August 30, 2020 at 10:19 am | Permalink

          ‘Total Covid 19:84 related deaths reported in all Europe yesterday: 339 out of 741,400,000 people. (worldometers website)’
          Is that low level due to the wearing of masks? Any evidence against that? I hope there is.

          • Posted August 30, 2020 at 10:23 am | Permalink

            I see that numbers proffered would indicate masks are not effective but at least no govt. comment about it. Very silly of them.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:09 am | Permalink

        No conspiracy theory. Just the facts.

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:53 am | Permalink

          Whoever really promoted the term “conspiracy theory “ ..some say CIA ..but disputed …what a useful thing it is for those in charge.
          Just dismiss justified questioning as bonkers! And shut down all inquiry.

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

            Or is it the other way around? As soon as the expression ‘conspiracy theory’ appears, one can be sure as hell that a non negligible number of people will consider their uppermost duty to prove the opposite, whatever that can be. Isn’t it how this works on this blog?

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

            No that isn’t how it works.

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

            That is my theory.

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

            E2, Gotcha!

          • Posted August 30, 2020 at 6:29 am | Permalink

            I was just teasing you hef.

          • Posted August 30, 2020 at 7:16 am | Permalink

            Yeah right, obviously. As you do every day with all the ‘remoaners’, I guess?

          • Posted August 30, 2020 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

            Is that your theory then hef?

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        What is ‘conspiracy theorist’ about it? It is pretty clear that people are conforming because they are being conditioned under threat of a fine. It is compelled and therefore muzzling.


    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:10 am | Permalink

      Agree much of the problem has been created by the governments project fear strategy and their useless test and trace system dissembling vast meaningless numbers as are the statistics, again often wrong peddled mercilessly by the press.
      Grant Shapps, the person who ludicrously had to lobby against his own rules in his constituency embodies the whole governments uncaring and lacking common sense, when he suddenly announces a 48 hour period before quarantine for people coming back from some countries.

      Why didn’t he look at when most people return, a Saturday? And give an extra 12/24 hours. What difference would it have made to our infection rates. next to zero. What difference to thousands of people, hundreds of pounds etc.

      Does your government think or care, sir JR. Not a jot. Shapps, Hancock, Williamson have shown they are not fit for purpose as many ordinary people I know, think, totally lacking common sense, certainly not having the ability to foresee the ‘Unknown’s’ that should be a basic requirement.

      Has anyone got any confidence that post Covid they could do any better. No.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:19 am | Permalink

        Headless chickens have more brains.

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:45 am | Permalink

          the ridiculous chickens eventually stop, but the guilty ministers don’t.

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          Covid 19:84

          “Matt Hancock claims backlog of up to 2.4 MILLION patients awaiting cancer treatment or scans should clear ‘within months'” Daily Mail

          In other wors 2.4 MILLION patients awaiting cancer treatment or scans should die ‘within months’.

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

            Hancock ‘ 2.4m patients backlog should clear within months’
            Has to be a contender for the most stupid comment this year.
            Shortlisted with ‘I’ll get it done’.
            Cummings ‘I drove 25 miles to test my eyesight’.

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

            Well this is the man who thinks that it is a ‘conspiracy theory’ to question their policy on testing – the same massively increased testing which has discovered previously unknown asymptomatic people and led to local lockdowns. Sure Mat, sure… we believe you LOL


          • Posted August 30, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

            Stephen P, Also the fact that more school age children have died during lockdown from the failure to get timely medical treatment, and from suicide, accidents, etc, than from covid19.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      That boat has sailed.

      Based in my experience in IT and Telecommunications, that has been the case for over twenty years. UK senior management embraced outsourcing
      of work massively.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink


        Some dinosaurs still wanted their staff on site and in view.

        A big driver was reduced office costs. The downside was hot desking. People then had to book a place at the office.

        Working from home could be handy at times, but to keep in touch with what was really going on and hear the rumours and gossip you had to go back to the office.

        Friday was usually a good day. Less busy as many liked to work from home on that day.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Indeed if you can do it from a bedroom in Milton Keynes or Wigan you can do it from Bangladesh far more cheaply still.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      The Govt will not lift restrictions. If one worker dies due to a return to the office, or one child due to a return to school, then this will stick to the PM and he will not be loved. Such one off cases are politically valued lives. The millions of live wrecked will not stick, the hundreds of thousands indirect deaths will not stick*. The opposition parties and media will also focus on the tragic individual case and not the aggregate, easy-pickings with catastrophic consequences. The PM happily keeps Hancock and Sunak in position and follows every move of Sturgeon – policies are not seeking to optimise the aggregate but to be loved.

      (* This is the identical situation with the defund police movement in USA)

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        Well Our Dear Leader Kim Jong Son can ape Stalin’s quote – ‘A Single Death Is a Tragedy; A Million Deaths Is a Statistic’


        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:47 pm | Permalink


    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      There is a subtle difference between “working FROM home”; and “working AT home”. For instance, my window cleaner is a one man band; defined as self-employed, who works FROM home, he doesn’t work AT home; there are about 4.7 million persons in a similar position.

      I am not sure how many of the 7.5 million public sector workers can work at/from home downloading sensitive personal data. Likewise the 20.3 million private sector workers downloading sensitive commercial data. Then they upload the results of their work, complete with the malware bug that was buried in that email you got last week.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        Little difference, they are using the same systems and built in VPNs.


  2. Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Change happens because people act according to what others do. Some decide by choosing a better path first, and lead.

  3. Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    I know two people who, pre-crisis, were allowed to WFH on Fridays. Both of them routinely short-change their employers on working time. Neither seem to be more productive at home than at work.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:27 am | Permalink

      My neat neighbours are having a whale of a time.
      Both in the public sector and suckling on the taxpayer teat.
      Cheques unwashed by the council after 4 weeks so it’s difficult to budget.
      4 weeks for an MOT because of stupid social distancing rules.
      High Street shops emptying do to lack of customers.
      Well done a Tory government for trashing the country for a few elderly sick. I’m 75. You didn’t do it in my name.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink


        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          I think you can wash the new ones!

          • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

            I thought money laundering was illegal Fred.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:35 am | Permalink

      The question isn’t always how long they work, it is whether they get the job done. If they do not, then the WFH priviledge should be revoked.

      Also, unless you see their entire timesheets, you don’t know if they are shortchanging their total contracted hours. After seeing HR complain that someone in that exact situation was only doing six hours on Friday and have to shoot HR down because – as the manager who ran the designer’s timesheet – I knew they were doing virtually their entire week’s hours in the first four days and were one of our more productive employees, I take these complaints with a grain of salt.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      Management need to put in control systems to monitor your friends WFH. If they cannot be trusted the ultimate sanction is a P45. And the company concerned would be better off without them.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      I have worked from home for 30 years as a software developer. Always worked hard. It is easy these days to use technology to find out how many hours people are logged in and to monitor what they do. If they have a client facing job involving lots of telephone calls, again, using a cloud based phone system you can see exactly what people get up to.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:38 am | Permalink


  4. Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    No you cannot forcast the business office future, but it is time for a major rethink by all concerned who have tasted the possibilities.

    If carefully thought through there are real gains to be had in increased productivity, lower office costs and requirements, an unburdened transport system, a healthier lifestyle when not ingesting the filth of the city.

    On the other side of the coin, service industries in the city will have to adapt to less office cleaning, pubs restaurants and gyms being no longer viable.

    Every company and employee are different so they need to sit down and work out how they might operate in the future. Government cannot lay down any rules of operation, but they could be on the lookout for abuses and block them. Government have there own ministries to put through the same process. All organisations will need to look seriously at security of communication. Trade unions will need to consider what positive contribution they can make because working from home will lessen their input to the workplace.

    All in all a lot of positive work needs to be done so lets crack on with it. My last observation is that in ten years time it will be interesting to see what impact it has on the health of the nation.

  5. Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    The minister for transport has realised that when he told us to use the car instead of the train and then closed half of the roads, the trains would have less income and the CBI have come to the end of their profitable furlough scheme. The big landlords of city offices are up the creek and redundancy of sandwich makers looms.

    My Mrs is producing more work at home and will not be able to continue if she is forced to go back to commuting three hours a day, wearing a mask. She has just been successful in obtaining a refund for thousands for her unused LT season ticket.

    Perhaps Shapps has also realised that his precious HS2 white elephant will be even whiter with no need for personal presence in meetings.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      There’s an obvious need, post-crisis, to revisit the HS2 investment appraisal. I trust that some MPs will be putting Shapps on the spot at the next Transport Questions in the Commons.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Closing half the roads makes city centre office work quite unviable.

  6. Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    Why should anyone return to work when your Ministers are showing they are petrified by continuing this pathetic habit of conducting interviews over Zoom etc

    Get them back into the studios. Why am I not surprised by lack of leadership from the CBI. It’s been given too much credence for as long as I can remember.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      Nigl – I was surprised too, until I looked at who has been leading the CBI for the last 5 years. Carolyn Fairbairn’s previous employers consisted mainly of the World Bank, the BBC, and US consultants McKinsey and Co. Obviously someone with a deep- rooted background in British industry – not.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        And she admitted she hasn’t been going in to her office at all! She may try going in for a few days a week.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        A bit like the lady recently in charge of the NHS T&T system and now of the NIHP. Talk Talk Group, Jockey Club, Cheltenham Festival, clearly a deep-rooted background in health questions.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        all part of the spin the wheel friends of friends group.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      Totally agree. The irony was lost on Grant Shapps yesterday who was all over the airwaves telling people they should be thinking about getting back to the office whilst he himself was zooming from home. You just couldn’t make it up. I keep saying it but our clueless useless politicians should be leading by example. They should have cancelled their summer recess and got back to parliament and then ordered all 6- 7 million state workers to do the same. Or is it just the wealth creating private sector they want to encourage back whilst they all continue to skive/work from home on their 100% salaries and 100% protected jobs?

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        but can you really imagine the BBC willing to do broadcast of an upbeat messsage from Shapps saying ‘we need to get back to work’ ?
        Not on their agenda.

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          Shapps – the government face of proaganda

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:20 pm | Permalink


        They have finally realised that have shafted the part of the economy that actually pays their wages and for their largess – The Private Sector. They need the tax money the wealth creators make to keep their plates spinning.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Every time the TV is turned on I seem to be looking up the nostrils of a face filling the screen. It’s totally put me off a career in ENT.

      However, just in case I have to be interviewed from home, I have acquired a large English language version of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey to place in a bookcase behind me so that I come across as an intellectual.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        just hang a smartphone on the wall behind you with the google icon visible.

  7. Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Another consequence of the shift to home working is that employees can live where they want to. It will be very appealing to high earners to leave the UK and work from home in a low tax country..

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      take note Andy.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Isn’t it what some contributor here is already doing from one of the Channel Islands?

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

          whoever you refer to has done it – I’m simply encouraging another to take advantage.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Living elsewhere while making the cash here – no problem for massive companies – but I feel that most people alone would be chased by the tax people. The reverse also happens. Work and live here, but get paid abroad – as shown in one program a few years ago, where several regular TV faces were living and working here, but paid through – I think – Madagascar.

      It is a shame that the average working class Joe Bloggs can’t do the same. But we are only here to be taxed. We don’t get enough to be paid in Madagascar – or even hide our money in Panama. Now our govt shows their total contempt for us by using our taxes to put illegals in better accommodation etc than we can afford.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      That won’t be in Europe then.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands?

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      Even more appealing for employers to get rid of the high earners and replace them with non-British working from their homes in a low-wage country.

  8. Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    “If sufficient businesses decide to allow substantially more homeworking in the mix then we will see lost jobs and lost businesses in city centres, along with lower office rents and some office conversions to other uses. ”

    If these unused offices can be converted to residences, then perhaps the on-going building over the greenbelt can be slowed down. Lower rents also make it easier to take premises to start new businesses – providing finance is available.

    However while jobs in city centres are falling, our local highstreet has new shops opening for the first time in two years, and the majority of cafes have signs outside for more employees. It does appear to be a transfer of wealth out of London to the regions, and that is not entirely a bad thing.

  9. Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    I wonder when will Len McCluskey give his permission to this PM for a return to work for the unionised public sector or his Johnson still pandering to this Marxist’s daily whims?

    You’d think it was McCluskey who was in government and had ownership of the public purse.

    I need my driving licence renewed but the DVLA is still stretched out in the garden soaking up the rays. But eh, who cares about our lives just as long as this PM and his party can keep Len from bringing the nation even further to its knees

    I bet rested and tanned State employees expect Tesco and Waitrose to be open for their daily shop? Hypocrisy

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      No it is well known that state employees have their foodstuff delivered from Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges or Harrods.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        You couldn’t be more wrong – or simply out of touch with the millions of jobs that are ‘state’. Possibly the overpaid mandarins (95% can tell you about their nearest Tesco.

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

          edit really changed what I submitted.

          The overpaid mandarins (95% will know where the nearest Tesco is.

  10. Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    JR: “Homeworking and the virus should not become an excuse for reducing service levels or building inconvenience and delay in for the customer.”
    They already have. So many organisations, like banks, have reduced opening times and trying to contact any of them by phone involves very lengthy holds at the beginning of which you are lectured about not calling unless absolutely essential.
    The government have dug a great hole and don’t seem to know how to get out of it and some such as Hancock clearly don’t as he seems to relish his role as little dictator.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      A great business opportunity to create a bank dedicated to serving it’s customers. One that answers the phone after two rings, one that has email contact direct with your branch or higher if necessary. The present situation pertains because you are dealing with a monopolistic cartel whatever bank you choose. The disease of none contactability exists throughout, above the corner shop level of business. It is endemic but it suits monopolistic business.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        I will not do any (obvious) advertisement but at least one such bank already exists and has been around for years (20+). It allows practically all operations via its dedicated internet portal, has most relevant documents (I cannot say all, as I do not know for sure) available on its site, has a dedicated group of staff answering not primarily via phone but via ‘Live Chat’. It is the 100% internet-based bank within a much bigger banking group.

        I have been with it for more than 15 years, never been to a branch (in fact the bank does not have any). I have had many operations involving payments in and out the UK, organised inheritance-related financial questions in and out this country … all satisfactorily handled and remotely. Its DCs and CCs are middle-of-the-pack for foreign transactions, competitive for UK-based transactions.

        As far as I know it is the only company (relatively) transparent when having (rarely) problems with its computers (Info on problems appears quickly on its site and is regularly updated). So not perfect but certainly (much) better than the two main street banks I had had previously.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      the worst we know of are GPs and NHS in general.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        Our GP practice is like fort knox.
        Tablet reviews over the phone, no blood tests.
        I took elderly mother to podiatrist yesterday and 4 people were allowed in during my 30 minutes wait.
        They only let me in because she is 93 and unstable. At our local hospital the carparks are 25% full and A&E is almost empty.
        Just what are the million NHS staff doing.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Read last night of a chap who needed a cancer op a few month ago. Cancelled due to the virus. He has now been told it is inoperable. How many more? Probably similar to the numbers actually coming in from Calais compared to the numbers we are told. Marvellous that those coming in have ambulances waiting for them. It seems the flood of young, healthy looking fighting age men are far more important than the tax payer. They certainly get treated better. Anyone would think they are being deliberately brought in for a purpose.

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          I wrote recently of an article (Sunday Times I think) that discussed the GP urgent cancer(?) referral ability, only something like a third had been seen – leaving 250,000 to suffer consequencies of no early diagnosis and a lifespan hit on 5 year survival. Many must also be stage 3 or 4 meaning many extra cancer deaths not identified.

  11. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    My son has voluntarily returned to work in central London twice a week. He eagerly awaits the 3-day season ticket so he can increase it to 3. He worked very hard from home but people are social animals and he was lonely. He is exempt from mask wearing. He feels completely safe and relieved to be getting his life back on track. It’s time to end anti-social distancing and mask wearing and to realise that the risk of becoming ill with Covid 19 is about the same as winning the lottery. My other son is finding it very difficult to find a job and is despondent about his future prospects.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:17 am | Permalink


      One of my sons booked a slot in the office for one day this week, loved it and booked Friday too…and is hoping to go in a couple of days each week. And like your son doesn’t need to wear a mask.

      He too was lonely, living in a flat alone and working 15 hour days ‘online’.

      • Posted August 30, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        Oh the joys of working at home !!!!!

        A lot can put up with it for a while, but I would suggest that for the majority this sort of employment is not suitable or sustainable for the very long term.

        A study was completed many years ago that suggested only 15% of the population had the sort of character to be able to work from home full time for many years, most simply wanted/needed the mental stimulus of actually being/working with others.

  12. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    WFH may now be part of a sea change in UK working practices and actually is a culmination of the possiblilities of the revolution. Using software such as Zoom, email and messaging apps etc means companies can effectively operate as before, but without the face-to-face contact.

    Many companies will increase profitability by not having to subsidise their employee’s commuting costs and by reducing their headquartering spend. It reminds me of the productivity increase associated with the three day week imposed as a result of the miners strike in 1974.

    The downside to all this is that employees have lost the opportunity for social interaction at work and that the small businesses centred around railway stations or town centres will loose out, as they have lost their customers.

    Of course, for some industries such as construction, where project engineers and management need to be on site to effectively manage their sub-contractors and make sure that progress matches the agreed programme, not much has changed. Except its now more difficult to get something for lunch, though consistently getting a seat on the train in is a bonus.

  13. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    What a bundle of fun today’s blog is! You’re painting a picture of doom and gloom, alongside a picture of ‘work’ that bears no resemblance to my life.

    Years ago when we were all commuting to work by train, we passengers would read a book, a newspaper or – shock horror – we even talked to each other. That all went by the wayside as eyes became stuck to screens, and headphones blocked the senses.

    We had fun in our place of work too, not often seeing ourselves as ‘staff’ slaving away for a Dickensian ’employer’ cracking the whip to improve productivity. We were a team. Trusted to carry out our work to the standards set by our training and by the discipline of teamwork. No authoritarian regime in sight. No game playing either. A weekly departmental meeting was all it took to iron out any wrinkles in the fabric of our reality. The whip-cracking you seem to crave is a more recent arrival.

    Teamwork is what you need to encourage. Teamwork, wherever the place of work. Fun. Individual responsibility. Trust. Not the current ‘living by government instruction’. Not the current ‘do as I say’ game that government is playing, with the rules changing daily almost, for no good reason. Nobody trusts government these days. Project fear has had its time. Project teamwork must emerge now.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      My most clear memories of a few decades of work are: endless traffic jams, expensive and irritating train journeys into cities with endless excuses why, hanging around airports hoping the cattle class was thin on the ground or busy and I might get upgraded, mindless gossip at the coffee machine, disturbing insight into how people avoided doing any work, worrying that the ‘corporation ‘ might demand I unload staff next quarter, or ask why I hadn’t recruited already to meet unexpected demand.
      I convinced myself work mattered and put off retiring until 65, then within 2 months thought why on earth did I not take the plunge several years earlier.
      The world of lifetime of work – needs a serious overhaul.
      I worry about my childrens’ future and how my grandchildren will deal with the work/income prospect. Having brains and a work ethic doesn’t seem to improve the odds of being secure and happy anymore.
      Perhaps Brown was right – pay excellent benefits and let the suckers pay the bill.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Jay Gee


  14. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    I’ve been retired for some years and live in the country so am out of touch with today’s commute and work realities.

    I would imagine that if a vaccine becomes available and mass vaccinations occur in the next six months there will be a return to old ways in the majority with some permanent change for the rest. If not then ways will be found to make home work more permanent.

    How many homes however lend themselves to change though? People can’t work at home permanently if they are using the kitchen table.

    Who will pay for the building of extra space, and will workers/homeowners be paid a rent by their employers for the workspace if space is fully converted or built? Will people want their homes changed? What if planners don’t allow it?

    Will work use be allowed in residential buildings without a major bureacracy being created to monitor it? Will insurance companies allow it without raking in in big fat premiums? Are waivers in place during the transition?

    I hope this is being worked on.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      You’re asking very good questions there, Prangwizard, but I fear the people who should be giving the answers don’t care about the sort of people you and I care about.
      Like young couples who might indeed have to use the kitchen table, as you say, to work from home.

      ‘If a vaccine becomes available and mass vaccinations occur in the next six months…’ you say. That isn’t going to happen, from what I gather. Not a safe vaccine anyway.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      I have ‘work units’ @ £3k pa for people who have no space to work from home. They are not hot desks, 25sqm heated, bright, secure with tea kitchen and toilet. Town centre, 1/2 a block from the high street.
      The Council provides similar, but 8sq m private and ‘communal’ meeting rooms, kitchen and toilets @ £18k pa. They are on the outskirts of the town in the superstore zone…
      And Andy wants me wiped out so that the Council is unopposed.

  15. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Lord Hall today in the Telegraph calling for wider diversity of opinion at the BBC. Do they have any that they can start to widen. On the EU, climate alarmists, big government, high taxes, the need for an unfairly subsidised state broadcaster there is none and they are wrong on all of this too. He repeated his “right creative decision” nonsense over the Proms.

    When he refers to diversity he means more more black, Asian, female and minority voices around the table as he puts it. But they must all have the above wrong headed BBC think opinions. The other day the world at one gave us the “Renowned Poet” Benjamin Zephaniah for what seemed like half the programme. He seemed to have nothing sensible to day.

    Martin Luther King’s speach 57th anniversary. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. It seem the dire woke loons now want the exact reverse of this. They want only to be viewed by the colour of their skin, sexuality, religion, ethnicity or other identity politics grouping and then get positive discrimination on that basis.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:25 am | Permalink


    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Government is poised to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee as soon as next month it seems. Why only “decriminalise” surely just abolish it and get a to level playing field. The BBC is already stuffed with indirect adverts, placements and “promotions” for BBC programmes, twitter, face book and endless other products.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Three very good articles I have read today.
      Patrick O’Flynn:- What is the point of Boris Johnson’s Tory party?
      Charles Moore:- Whitehall Mandarins have lost sight of what is means to be politically neatral.
      Douglas Murray It’s in the UK’s interests for Trump to triumph.

      (an antidote to misguided William Hague “think”).
      If only for his sensible energy agenda he surely deserves to win.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      Rep. John DeBerry (Dem, but now deselected for November), 90th District Tennessee gave a very fine speech to the Tennessee legislature recently.

      My family raised money and sent my dad to Washington for that march when that man stood there and said that he wanted his children judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

      And all we do in America right now is talk about color. Every issue, every issue is about race, it’s about color instead of us sitting down at the table like men and women of common sense and common justice and understanding that our enemies are looking with a greedy vigilance upon us as we tear ourselves apart internally.

      I stand for the men and women who acted like they had some sense and some courage and changed this country by being men and women who stood for something.

      If we don’t start standing for something, don’t you know that the people who are looking at what’s happening in Washington and Detroit and Portland and Seattle, they’re getting emboldened because we act like a bunch of punks, too frightened to stand up and protect our own stuff.

      You tell me that somebody got the right to tear down property that Tennessee taxpayers paid for, that American taxpayers paid for and somebody has the right to destroy it, deface it and tear it down? What kind of people have we become that we can’t protect our own stuff and when the heroes are those who violate the law?

      Peaceful protest ends peacefully. Anarchy ends in chaos.

      What has happened to us?

      If we don’t get this right right now, I’ve got grandchildren. I don’t want to see the country we’re going to have 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now.

      If we don’t start acting like we got some guts, right now – brethren, sisteren, friends, colleagues – right now.

  16. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Working effectively from home depends utterly on the internet being available – a primary risk factor in itself. Prolonged disruption or loss of internet over a wide area brought about by, say, a foreign agent could bring about an economic crash. Has anyone thought about that?

    Reply Modern office working is also very dependent on the internet

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      reply to reply …..and more and more industrial processes, delivery workers etc.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:35 am | Permalink


      Like wise home computers (the back door to the mainframes) far more easily open to cyber attack than trying direct.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      Electricity supply needs to be more secure, e.g. more coal/gas – fired generators.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        And more non-Chinese nuclear power.

  17. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Hancock warning about a second wave, Government wanting people to go back to work

    Mixed messages again JR.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      a lot of us want a second wave – – to Hancock saying bye bye.,

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:06 pm | Permalink


  18. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Lift the inane restrictions and allow life to be as it was – The potential for some jobworthy to be able to fine someone for an infringement is enough to put anybody off travelling to work, etc, if they can avoid it

    Judging by the amount of propaganda being dished out about masks, it is not hard to see how people can be so confused – Masks should be used when at risk, not as a matter of course…

    Germany & France are now insisting masks are worn at all times … This is beyond rationality and demonstrates where these countries want to go, which is not a nice place.
    When you cannot trust the statistics you cannot trust government directives.

    It is easy to see through the fallacy of masks for protection against CV – Simply inhale from a cigarette, put the mask on, exhale and watch the smoke go through the mask – that’s exactly how the virus would ignore such alleged protection.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Going through the mask are individual molecules including those of cigarette smoke; that does not prove that aerosols containing multiple viruses which are a high order of magnitude larger are also passing freely through.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        The virus is far tinier than bacteria, the level at which masks were designed for…

        The virus will pass through a mask in the same way smoke does, except that you will not see it.

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

          Best description I heard (by a medic) is that wearing a mask is the eqivalent of putting up a chain link fence hoping it will keep out mosquitoes.

          • Posted August 30, 2020 at 7:23 am | Permalink



          • Posted August 31, 2020 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

            Mask, will reduce prevent larger droplets on which virus will likely be present in larger doses. If you are infectious or close to someone who infectious.

            Minimum infectious dose?

            Its a balance of risks. Your choice ultimately. Your health.Your conscience.

        • Posted August 30, 2020 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

          People do not exhale individual viruses so its dimensions are irrelevant.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        Researchers have analyzed whole smoke or used chemical and physical means to separately examine the gas and particulate portions of tobacco smoke. The gas phase is defined as the portion of smoke that passes through a glass fiber filter of specified physical parameters, and the particulate phase refers to all matter captured by the glass fiber filter (Pillsbury 1969). Standard methods for analysis of tobacco smoke separate the two phases by using Cambridge glass fiber filters designed to collect aerosol particles of 0.3 micrometers (μm) or larger

        Virions (or “particles”) of coronary viruses are spherical particles between 0.06 micron and 0.14 micron in diameter, averaging about 0.125 micron

        So viruses are smaller than smoke particulates that give it most of its visibility.

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

          No scientist has suggested that free-floating covid-19 viruses are expelled by the infected so the dimensions of the virus are irrelevent. What is relevant is the size of aerosols and droplets which contain viral loads. These have been estimated in the order of 5 microns for aerosols and much larger for droplets so this tends to confirm what has been already been established by experiment, namely that facemasks give about 30% protection to the wearer and about 70 % reduction in infectivity to those in their vicinity.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        Do you know big viruses are? What does smoke consist of?


  19. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Employment law and contract law may need attention. Some employers may provide IT and other kit to staff working from home; but others expect staff to use their own kit for office work. The latter is ok to a point, but where is that? For example: phone and broadband contracts for private households may limit business use; house insurance and temporary storage of confidential business papers at private addresses; data protection and its application to business information stored on a staff member’s private computer.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Very sensible post. It seems that a number of computer/internet heavy companies have from March distributed to their staff working from home ‘securitised’ laptops that can only access the company’s networks via ‘rather sophisticated ways’ of connecting. This somewhat limits the problems you mention as company-relevant information and data (should) remain on company-owned devices.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      If WFH becomes the norm, how long will it be before the local council comes knocking wanting business rates? Then what happens if you want to sell your house – what legal and tax complications might there be? The tax man would surely play up if you have claimed for some office space against your tax bill – would he want part of any profit made in selling? I’d not take it on unless my employer indemnified me from such situations.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

        Business rates are only charged on non-domestic property, so can’t be applied to a home.

        It has also been possible to claim tax allowances for home working for many years. In fact HMRC have recently introduced a simplified, flat rate allowance (£6 per week).

        You are worrying over nothing.

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

          Graham said…how long will it be before….
          Which you seem to have missed.

          • Posted August 30, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

            Not at all. It would require primary legislation to be passed before either of his concerns could become reality, and I think that would get noticed.

        • Posted August 30, 2020 at 9:32 am | Permalink

          Thank you. I’m not worrying, it doesn’t affect me, but when thoughts occur, I mention them so others cleverer than me may think about it. As Edward2 says, ‘currently’ – governments have a habit of changing things when they want, and they are going to want more taxes. Proof of my point – Jenrick has virtually binned local planning without a bye your leave and without any fuss from anyone. Something that big, no problem and you see other things become possible.

          • Posted August 30, 2020 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

            I agree Graham
            Peter is right it would need new legislation but that is easy to do with a big majority.

            I think it is unlikely to happen but rumours abound of a Treasury wanting tax rises or new taxes.

  20. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Is modern society so obsessed with electronic communications that it is unable to see that:

    you can’t fix a plumbing leak with your iphone
    you can’t mow a lawn with a laptop
    you can’t remove a cancerous tumour with a Zoom call
    you can’t prepare, cook and serve food via Twitter

    and finally, the more you isolate human beings, the more depression and other mental health problems you foment.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      ” the more you isolate human beings, the more depression and other mental health problems you foment.” – SM

      If human beings should not be isolated, then perhaps re-opening the social side of life – cinemas, theatres, museums, days out, etc. – would be a better answer than insisting offices reopen.

      After all, social activity increases should hardly be limited to those that work in offices. The retired, disabled, stay-at-home-parents, self-employed, and more would probably appreciate it too.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:58 am | Permalink


    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink


  21. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I get the feeling that working from home works best for those jobs that don’t need doing at all.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Bit short-sighted. Many statisticians, data analysts and computer programmers are working from home now, rather than in an office. Their work covers a vast range of products and services.
      I do know one or two government departments that have discussed with their staff about returning to an office environment and are actually giving people a choice…come to an office or work at home. There are many who miss the social interactions. These more rational departments will eventually have the best of both worlds, with their employees happily set up in the environment that suits them best. Mental well-being is everything for productivity.

  22. Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    People who’ve worked from home regularly will tell you that they are no less productive at home. Sure, they will work differently. They may, for example, pop out for half an hour in the afternoon to collect their kids from school. But because they haven’t spent 3 or 4 hours commuting lost time is easily made up at the end of the day.

    The fact is that the pros of working from massively outweigh the cons for many. You save huge amounts of time and money on commuting. You get to spend more time with your family. Even the dog sees you more. The stuff you used to get done in the City – haircuts, nails, beauty treatments – are done locally instead, benefiting local businesses.

    Well paid ‘City’ lawyers and bankers can now base themselves much more permanently in their second homes and will spend more of their money in those areas rather than the City.

    Companies will, ultimately, find they can save vast amounts by massively reducing the amount of office space they need. This will eventually make them more profitable –
    money they can hopefully share with their employees as well as their shareholders.

    Best of all working from home will drive up productivity. This has long be the reason why our economy has lagged here. Incidentally, MPs should make themselves more productive by finally adopting electronic voting. How ridiculous in 2020 that you are still all traipsing through doors and hallways when you could be pressing a button – while helping your constituents instead.

    Of course the big problem is what it does to City centres. They will clearly suffer. So ministers need to act. It must be made much easier to turn unused office space into residential accommodation. And, perhaps, there should be significant financial incentives for property owners and developers to do this. Just think – you could solve the housing crisis, the productivity crisis and empty cities in one go.

    Secondly, all planned office development should be frozen for 12 months until we know where we are. Buildings under construction could be completed but sites where work has not started should be mothballed. We do not want even more office space if we are not going to need office space.

    Finally, we should pedestrianise swathes of our city centres. Most cities are quite small and are easily walkable – cyclable. Cars makes cities unpleasant places to be. Let’s get rid of the cars and make people the focus of our cities once again.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Agreed except for stuff about banning cars.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      It’s a +1 from me (except banning cars) but this is accompanied with the worst economic depression we have ever experienced.

      Time will tell if it was a good thing – I think not.

      Such huge changes cannot be undertaken in such a short timescale.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Over here, more and more cities and town “pedestrianise” their centres, often in a way that slow cycling is still allowed or “gedoogd” (=tolerated). Shopowners see their business increase as a result and if cars are made to avoid the town centres, over time these towns become much more pleasurable to live in. Amazing to experience the lack of car-tyre noise that one didn’t realise had been there all the time!

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      Its obvious your an inky finger who really is not productive. The people who make the countries money are not able to work from home as they have a product at the end of the day that needs stored and packed. Home working where the loom or spinning wheel was installed in ones house has moved on greatly, but then you are too young to realise.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      Why do you need more city flats if the jobs have moved elsewhere? Ghettos?

      • Posted August 30, 2020 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        + 1

  23. Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    A couple of points from this and one other.

    Glaring hypocrisy from the likes of the business secretary and the CBI lady to try to get others back before them and their staff. It shows how out of touch these people are.

    People will do what suits them. They won’t take any notice of the government or CBI lady. They have been pushed to stay at home and if that has worked for them and their employers, then it will remain. I’d expect 50% of this to stick. Many of the young and those needing social interaction will return. People in labs and production have to. Sales people will get back to travelling a bit more but mix it with Teams and Zoom. Travelling will be almost universally for social and pleasure purposes.

    Local lockdowns if imposed must be strictly geographically focussed. Locking down most of Leicester, the North West, Oxfordshire etc., is unacceptable when the sources of infection are very localised.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      As for Pert a Manger etc closing down, this type of shop sprang up in the past 30 years to fill a need. If the need isn’t there now, move on with the farriers and blacksmiths. There are bigger, better and more productive tasks out there than selling sandwiches.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      much of Oxfordshire is already in a permanent lockdown due to the dreadful A40 and rubbish railways.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      I agree Joe

  24. Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    There has been a gradual shift from working in a large, usually expensive office, to ‘hot desking’ to now more home working, and this has been going on for the last +20 years. Better hardware, software and internet speeds allow the once dream of working from home a reality. The only stumbling blocks were, resistance from employers who needed to have their employees at work, and the employed who may not necessarily like the change. Clearly the need to both stay in business and employment during the lockdown has forced the Private Sector to innovate and adapt. The Public Sector, who have no such concerns have just seen and taken this a paid holiday, although as other contributors have commented, not all.

    Land prices are key here. If land, especially in a sought after location, is scarce then clearly the rentals for any business is going to be a major cost. A cost that has to be passed on. Allowing some working from home reduces the need for space and therefore the cost to the company, with the employee effectively subsidising the employer by allowing them to use there own home to carry out their work.

    What the knock on effects of the reduction in office and retail rentals, footfall for other support business is anyone’s guess ?

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Starmer has only 5% of his work force in the office while telling everyone to return to work. Between 1-7 and 1-10 civil servants are back in the office working! Says it all. Once again, the govt has catastrophically messed up big style.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        ‘Covid Secure’ offices mean only a small percentage of the workforce can use the office space. The government is, of course, responsible for these regulations….


  25. Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    A trend towards more home working was already happening. It was inevitable given modern technology.

    I think we should let workers and businesses decide these things themselves and things will work out.

    One good thing will be some revival of local towns, shops and businesses.

    PS. Quite right to encourage us to keep our posts short. I love this forum and appreciate and often agree with your words but please don’t forget that readers here are often busy as well and you may wish to take some of your own advice Sir John!

  26. Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    According to today’s Mail Tory MPs are worried about the PM’s performance but they still have ‘tremendous goodwill’ towards him too.

    With 41,000 dead from Coronavirus, the worst recession in 300 years, the care home scandal, the A level fiasco, the quarantine mess, the dinghy explosion and Brexit debacle – the rest of us are worried about his performance too. But we have precisely no goodwill towards him and want the incompetent oaf gone as soon as possible.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      Why do you insist on emphasising your unsuitability for replacing our PM with everything you write.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:36 am | Permalink


    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      Interesting list. The Wuhan plague death rate in the U.K. has almost certainly been exaggerated – we’ll have to wait for excess death data in a year or so. There’s recession everywhere, caused by the plague and policy reactions to it. Quarantines a nonsense I agree, but it’s happening everywhere, and you leftists were arguing for more lockdown etc not less. The dinghy problem is caused by evil people traffickers and French incompetence. It’s too early to say whether or not Brexit will be a success.

      And opinion polls continue to show goodwill towards and support for Boris. So I think as the recovery gets going you’ll be in for a frustrating few years. And, based on Starmer’s non-existent impact so far, you’re going to get another drubbing in 2024. It’ll be funny.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        The ‘plague’ has caused nothing – all the dire consequences are as a result of the government’s actions. It will not admit it has made a mistake, and until it does we will be cursed with these moronic policies.

        Our dreaded Health Commissar Mat Hang Kok is clearly salivating for another lockdown, as they desperately do their master’s bidding until a vaccine has been rolled out. I’m not sure if they are aware, but we have had flu vaccines for decades and people die of it all the time. Currently six times as many as COVID 19 (with or of but more likely with), so it will not make a blind bit of difference.

        This moronic ‘muzzle’ strategy is here to stay until people don’t comply. So unless you want to be muzzled forever, don’t comply.

        There is a reason why there are so many exemptions to muzzle wearing, do you know why?


        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:16 pm | Permalink


    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      it’s not going well, is it?

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Number aged under 60 with no pre-existing co-morbidity dead from Covid: 305.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        Obesity not mentioned.

        The number of times I’ve seen a photo of the deceased and the report says ‘healthy’ when the person looks three stones overweight.

        There are, of course, people who are perfectly fit who have succumbed.

        • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          Andy I thought you were all for dinghy arrivals. According to you then that’s one thing Boris has got right

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:16 pm | Permalink


  27. Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Home working is not a matter of wafting around the house , fitting in a little opining between leisure pursuits. The working population currently faces a stark choice between unemployment or exploitation, and employers have found that separated unregulated and terrified workers suit them nicely.
    Life behind Britain`s closed doors is not a carpet picnic as anyone who knew anyone involved would tell you.
    Being ” in touch” is an MP`s job. If I fail in mine , there are consequences .

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      It certainly shouldn’t be, nor is it, I agree. This is a total misnomer. Any employer who just lets his workforce do what they like at home is asking for trouble. I think it is the case with most organised work, that mostly everything is recorded and checked by computer, which is a much harder task master and more difficult to fool than most dept. managers.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      And modern houses are scarcely designed to accommodate work.
      A friend of mine in a super tiny yet massively expensive semi (?) has been required to remove herself, a toddler and a tiny baby from the house at regular intervals so her husband can work.
      He has now had to add a “shoffice” to the mortgage.
      An all seasons one is not cheap!

      Historically who wanted to leave their home for a sweatshop?
      Precisely no one.
      Hounded into factories by taxation and enclosure.
      Yet the same rapacious elite ( yes, I know, but find a better word. Criminals?) Are still playing Russian roulette with our lives.

  28. Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    It has long been apparent to any thinking employee that the time, effort, discomfort and money spent travelling to and from work are totally wasted. It has now been proved beyond all reasonable doubt that in all non-manual or mechanical employments an awful lot of work can be done from home without adversely impacting the result and freeing up at least two hours of time every working day.
    People are therefore going to be very reluctant indeed to go back to old ways with a daily commute, though there will still be the need for face to face meetings of many kinds.
    As you say this will result in big changes in management techniques and of course in usage of property and premises with major implications for urban centres and what goes on in them. The sooner people start planning for them, the better, because they will happen.

  29. Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    So now the dire Matt Hancock is talking about another lockdown and allegedly the government has changed its instructions to schools almost at the last minute undoing much of the planning.

    It just continues to give the impression of off the cuff management unaware or uncaring about any consequences of their actions.

    Frankly completely b*****y useless.

  30. Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    At the risk of sounding repetitive Sir John, as I have said before, The country cannot get back to any kind of normality unless and until the appalling CV19 Act is repealed and the whole lockdown disaster is abandoned.

    But of course, the Government will never admit it has made a gigantic error (along with other idiot governments) and instead all we get is more project fear now in the form of ‘cases’. Do they really think we are so incredibly stupid? The death rate is now so low as be almost irrelevant.

    Cost and damage to the country mounts daily but our Government sails on seemingly without care.

  31. Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Two of my close neighbours have been working partially from home way before covid.

    Recent insurance renewals was with staff at home.

    The reality is many financial services do not need to be in a central office. Home working or a rented desk in a local hub makes sense.

    I am beginning to wonder if GP surgery calls are to out workers.

  32. Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    If there is to be any hope of a return to normal behaviour the population must be convinced that the situation is normal.
    Existing people to wear masks, quarantining people, banning parties etc. convinces people that there is something worth fearing.
    The government cannot simultaneously persuade people to act as though there is a deadly threat and persuade them to act as though there isn’t.
    The death rate is now insignificant, hospitalization is declining, the proportion of positive tests is roughly in line with the rate of false positives, indicating very few people have the disease.
    Time to repeal the Act, return out civil liberties, and stop scaring people.
    It should be observed that measures designed to flatten the curve prior to the peak being reached would be better described as prolonging the agony after that.

  33. Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    None of the return to work strategies will work if this government doesn’t do something positive about ending lockdown and stamp down the stories of a second wave….and dispute every media story of a second wave

  34. Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Two comments from the same DM article today:

    1. “Civil Servants should be able to work from home if they want to. I’m a civil servant and my place of work is miles away from a city centre so me going back full time to the office isn’t going to help the economy at all as there are no cafes or pubs in the vicinity to purchase food from-when I worked in the city centre I never did anyway , to expensive and too busy at lunchtime. I work three days a week from home the rest in office after an hours commute in the car so its a negative impact on the environment after so much good for air quality and the planet was gained during lockdown. I work more at home, i’m focused and my mental health is far better-blood pressure is down( less stress with the commute) so I’m slightly aggrieved that Boris wants to drag us back in office and use us as an example , if he does try I can see no good coming out of it. I can see him looking for a new job himself next election.

    2. “My business is barely functioning. Not because of lack of work or workers. Instead we can’t get vital things done by local government and all they can tell us it wont be done for the foreseeable future. This is licencing stuff that cannot be done whilst they WFH. These are inspections that need to be done physically. Some employees can’t work as they are not seeing anyone to interview and issue licences. In a few short months we will have to cut services unless this blanket WFH nonsense ends.

    Perhaps the public “servant” would care to explain to the business owner why he should be worrying about air quality, or her mental health and blood pressure, when he can’t see how his business is going continue? No doubt, she’ll be dismayed when businesses begin to collapse due to withdrawal of the required public support structures and she’s left with no work to do anyway, and no job. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a pile of sanctimonious, straw man guff in all my life and if this is the quality of staff employed in public service, it explains a lot!

  35. Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    The point of going in to the office is to meet people, either in formal meetings or less formal discussions. If due to virus precautions the office is configured so that everyone is sitting in sterile cubicles and contact is limited then people may as well work from home.

    There is clearly an impact on morale and efficiency the longer this goes on. I travelled a lot in my working career and I don’t think it was all wasted. So a partial return to the office and more flexible work from home arrangements seem the sensible way forward.

    Of course the government is in a weak position having made the wrong decisions at every turn in this pandemic and leaving businesses in no mood to be lectured.

  36. Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    If the Chancellor had introduced UBI instead of his unethical job retention scheme, then it would have been possible to reduce minimum wage, remove redundancy requirements, other benefits etc. and then the economy could have been left to adjust. As it stands Hancock and Sunak have destroyed much of the country and many lives, whilst protecting others in privileged/safe positions. The adjustments that are happening are very unfair and nasty.

    The Chancellor should also have delayed the stamp duty holiday until the direction of the economy was clear. When unemployment hits and/or the direction of population movement is more clear would have been an obviously more sensible timing. When one meets with people who are being tempted to move by the stamp duty holiday and they mention the future need for just a weekly commute rather than daily is making them (/ giving them the opportunity to) seek fast distant connection rather than shorter commuter belt is O.K., but I worry about the number being tempted by the Chancellor into such relocations now.

    I remain concerned by the suburban (-though a new term might be needed without the urban) sprawl planning approach of the Govt., this combined with the current destruction of cities going on will mean connected vertical innovative cities will not exist in the U.K. With the continuing planned population increase and the loss of city driven innovation the country will be low GDP per capita, swathes of poverty, needlessly destroyed natural environment, increased inefficiencies in services etc.

    If the U.K. had not been running an increasing population, house ownership, sprawl model to begin with (but rather high quality rental, vertical, interconnected and innovative cities) then far fewer people would have had to be commuting for so long and the country ending route that we are about to follow would never have happened.

  37. Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Good morning Sir John

    In Government their appears to be a lack of comprehension and understanding of the modern workplace. Talking the Office type worker here.

    The current situation has just brought forward the almost inevitable. People were going into offices that are expensive real-estate to work on computers that have gone back to being similar to big main frame terminals. The difference is for the most part the Internet works. The screen on a desk is hooked up to a mainframe or cloud server in some far flung part of the World via VPN. Microsoft Office 365, for the most part is click- to-run product in the Cloud. As is most Cooperate bespoke software. Then you throw in Teams or if you feel risky Zoom. That meant for most all office work was already remote. Just commuting to do what can be done at home.

    I have a family member who does mundane office work for a large multi-national, being working at home throughout. The Company has recognized their staff without the commute are more productive. Weekly meeting are still held but now via Teams. Soo plus, plus, plus and now could save money.

    So while it might seem that it is these workers that are reluctant to return, the company’s themselves can no longer see the full value to it.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Back in 2004 there was a program on TV that dealt with the move offshore primarily to India of the mundane and paper pushing side of Office Work. The big International Airlines and even BA along with BT bought into this as a way of saving money.

      Meanwhile in the US ‘JetBlue Airways’ pondering the need to follow the trend, realized they were just setting up remote working. The also recognized they had the usual turnover of staff as in the case of family needs etc. So instead of following the crowd to India they re-employed their home bound staff. JetBlue administratively is now primarily staffed by home worker. They are simply more productive and the removal of expensive office space saves money.

  38. Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    The Government seems preoccupied with ‘MetroLand’ being deserted and the big multinational food outlets are suffering. Wasn’t this always on the cards.

    City/Town Centers have been destroying themselves for years each one is a clone of the other. The same coffee bars, same restaurant chains, same shoe shops, same clothing stores even what used to pass as a department store is just these same outlets renting concession space. They way it has morphed is that each Street looks like another. I am old enough to remember Carnaby Street when it was full of independent tailors, now it is big international chains selling the same rags coming out of some far flung sweat shops, just sow in a different label.

    It is the High Streets themselves aided and abetted by muddled thinking planers that has destroyed the purpose of them existing. Choice and difference is what makes commerce vibrant. Between them they killed their own purpose. They are now the past.

    The Government should just get over it and move on. If they want to do something positive they need to unshackle the whole country, from its bizarre rules, red tape and regulations. Then you will see something none of us had thought of become what it is all about.

    As a Conservative MP said yesterday ( I have forgotten his name) Metroland’s loss in the local communities gain.

  39. Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    ‘It is difficult to forecast what might now happen.’

    Indeed. A lot of businesses have already gone to the wall or will do soon. That will have a knock on effect on others.

    Life for employees will be more precarious. There may be more opportunity for a ‘race to the bottom’ by some employers. A fragmented workforce may be less able to resist this.

  40. Posted August 29, 2020 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    What has been particularly strange in the last 2-3 days has been several opinion pieces in the Daily Telegraph and Spectator on the subject. The tone of voice was one of smug, knowing superiority and the message was – basically – if you’re not back in the office you’ll soon get sacked.
    We can start by noting that these footloose hacks (prone themselves to penning copy from their back garden/holiday villa/weekend bolthole) know little about working and managing people in the knowledge economy.
    People in the knowledge economy have been at risk of their work being off-shored for at least 2 decades already, and know it. Their continued employment depends upon them possessing and applying knowledge that cannot easily be found in Mumbai or its alternatives.
    What has come over these publications that traditionally have been thoroughly libertarian and laissez-faire on these matters? I can’t help but think that these pieces are actually motivated by jealousy. Could it be that the authors have been summoned back to London by their editors and resent the fact that the rest of us have not?

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Reducing the operating costs of a prestige city office ,covering much of the work at home puts off the day when it is subcontracted to Southern Asia.

  41. Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I recall back in the 80s when the Apple Mac and IBM PC flooded on to the office scene. We were told that soon we would all work from home and that internet video conferencing would mean the end of international business air travel. Look at the enormous savings in green house gases of doing this, also massive productivity increases from people not sitting around in cars and planes doing nothing productive.

    It never really happened as executives loved their overseas trips and reps love driving around in their company cars rather than sitting in an office. Well, maybe COVID means it’s time to look again.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Well one of my friends who ran an aircraft component manufacturer supplying Boeing in Seattle did just that in the late 80s. He did a lot of other things that turned the company from a loss to a big profit, in two years from becoming CEO.

  42. Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Although the virus has receded, it has not gone away. We read that there has been a very substantial resurgence in France with Macron threatening another lockdown. The virus will exploit the failure of authorities to be ever vigilant and for ‘communities’ to ignore sensible precautions.

    In today’s telegraph is a story about the failure of Border Force to check incoming passengers’ ‘locator forms’ and that there is no follow up to see if people are following quarantine rules. Even people arriving from ‘safe’ locations cannot be assumed to be free of the virus because of the incubation period before new clusters are detectable.

    There can be no return to normality until the government starts behaving responsibly and scientifically and controls new clusters of the virus as they develop which they will. People arriving from a foreign country will disperse throughout the country with the potential to create new clusters anywhere; this is far more potentially serious than new infections in an area where the authorities are already aware of infections and are pro-actively attempting to control them and it will have far more serious consequences for the residents and businesses in those new locations.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      What is being detected by the PCR tests? How many are in ICUs? How many are dead? How many are actually ill? How many tests are being undertaken in comparison to a few months back?


      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

        The issue is the potential for a resurgence of infections and a consequent increase in serious cases and the further consequence of a reduction in public confidence and its impact on the economy. When it comes to the validity of testing, Sir Paul Nurse has kept his Crick Institute working by regular testing of researchers and quarantining those few who have had a positive test. I did not attend David Icke’s rally; did you?

        • Posted August 30, 2020 at 8:16 am | Permalink

          No, I didn’t, what has that got to do with any of the points I raised? Are you using an ad hominem argument against me forthurst by trying to link me with Icke? I do believe you are. I think that you can do better than that old chap…. hahaha

          You do realise that there are reputable scientists and doctors who are asking the same questions as I have just asked like Professor Carl Heneghan, or perhaps you are ignorant of that fact.


  43. Posted August 29, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Mr Smug@Home is going to face an unimaginable tax bill.

    5 million unemployed predicted. A credit crisis. Former taxpayers now evictees demanding that they are housed at least as well as Channel queue jumpers.

    Let’s not forget, this working from home malarky is accompanied by the biggest economic crisis since the war and is about to deliver social upheavals and inequalities like we have never seen.

    Those left earning will be forced to pay for the rest and will probably choose to leave the country.

    And if it doesn’t need to be done here then why does it need to be done by us ?

    The worst PM in British history. The worst government in British history. I’m fed up of trying to defend it.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Another pot half empty. If you think the way you do it will happen the way you think. Think positive and make it happen.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

        WTF ?

        Are you in denial about what has happened ?

        Up to 5 million displaced in one season.

        The City of London (our power house) shut down.

        So why not Frankfurt now ???

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      He will face it wherever he works….


    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      Just wait for November!

  44. Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    There is the issue of newcomers to the industry.

    A graduate to enter a City firm and charm his way to a good job during an internship. Now that doesn’t count – or at least, it can’t be done.

    So quotas are going to be a lot easier to do without mind to suitability under the boot of BLM authoritarianism.

    Maybe that’s a good thing. But I’d hate to be a white chap starting his career in the City now.

  45. Posted August 29, 2020 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    And working from home limits access to company held reference documents.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      Surely, not if they are online.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      What do you mean specifically?


      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        I can access everything at home that I could access at work on my laptop.


    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      JH, That might just mean that such a company is a minimum ten years late in its dealing with reference documents. Maybe it deserves to go under.

      In my last place of work, the ‘reference documents’ had started to be digitised at the time of the ‘Y2K threat’. In those days there had been some anxiety with people (usually in upper management) thinking the info might be ‘lost for ever’. We took the opportunity to get rid of all the old 16-bit desk machines, checked the newer 32-bit desk machines, tested for various potential problems on a 64-bit mainframe, essentially to make sure we could deal smoothly with previously poorly-coded dates and date-related security information in multiple documents and the 31/12/‘99 to 01/01/‘00 transition went through without hiccup.

      These days, any company not able to ensure the security of its connections from ‘outside’ should really reconsider its computer department and the quality of people in it, giving that most connections are now essentially made to a network, and that connecting to the network from home or next floor in the office building should be equivalent.

    • Posted August 30, 2020 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      Agreed John. My friend works in an NHS office. One of the staff is working from home and doesn’t have all the information she needs to do her job in full. The slack is being taken up by those in the office.

  46. Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Polly, that is one side of a multi faceted approach.Let companies and workforces discus it and adopt the best solution for the company.

  47. Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Anyone surprised at the mistakes being made by Govt with 90% of the staff refusing to return to work .Clearly our Civil Servants are not doing their jobs
    I wonder how the issue of security will be handled .Londoners ,because of cost usually occupy shared housing with fellow sharers they have no say in vetting
    A computer accidentally left open on the kitchen table could disclose the latest idea for advertising campaign,fashion or design feature being worked on. Not to mention Chinese and Russians Spying .
    Not everyone lives in a spacious house complete with Study .
    Watch and wait for the first scandal and the inevitable clampdown

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      I think a new description is appropriate – – Civil Shirkers.

      • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        …or the untouchables? They never seem to be held accountable and the mandarins apparently run circles round Tory ministers (and then are rewarded with knighthoods for their efforts).

      • Posted August 30, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Not on 80%, just crucifying’s the taxpayer and no one cares. No one is standing up for the taxpayer.

  48. Posted August 29, 2020 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    ‘A BREXITEER has warned a major mistake has allowed the European Union to make huge gains in the ongoing Brexit trade talks.’ ‘the EU wanted to “play up differences between Scotland and the UK” during Brexit talks ‘

    The EU getting involved in the UK’s political landscape is first and foremost the reason to walk.

    The other mistake was to not just walk away in June. The UK has been weakened further by engaging in the continuous discussion on what appears to be ‘there is no deal unless the UK submits to the EU Laws, rules and regulations all controlled by the UK Courts’ There is no deal unless the UK accepts that the EU controls UK fishing’

    That isn’t a negotiation that is asking for surrender.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      It was always going to be a surrender with Boris as he refused to ditch May’s Withdrawal Agreement. What angers me greatly is that Tory Brexiteer MPs did not call him out on this, and thus will be complicit in the betrayal that Boris seems to be carrying out.

      Tory MPs had their chance to prove their worth and to demonstrate their true allegiance, but they have apparently failed to do this. To me they appear a weak unprincipled lot, only interested in saving their Party but not the country.

      • Posted August 30, 2020 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        as a group you’d have to say what a lily-livered bunch they are!
        Barely a handful stand up for anything. Sheep? or elected on a broken promise – which is it?

      • Posted August 30, 2020 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        Then again, what is a Tory MP nowadays?

        • Posted August 30, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

          Apologies, Sir John as my MP you are still considered a Conservative its just there are so few of you guys.

  49. Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    A lot of commercial properties need to be transformed into residences. We should NOT be building ever more homes in areas short of water. That is literally insane.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      There is an oversupply or housing.

  50. Posted August 29, 2020 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    If working from home was so successful and productive why doesn’t anyone answer the phone in government departments? I had a complete run around yesterday, with mechanical answer phones asking me ten questions before basically telling me there wasn’t a human to deal with a serious problem that needed sorting out quickly and I should look on line and try to find a website and e-mail to try to find a human to answer the problem.

    Two hours to sort something out that should have taken five minutes.

    Problem 2 had to call HMRC about a query on an alleged underpayment of tax which was incorrect, we made three phone calls on hold 35 minutes before being told no-one was available to answer the call and to call back again or use the website but there is no-way of dealing with a problem like this on the website. On our 3rd attempt after 40 minutes waiting on hold we were finally answered by a human who dealt with the query quickly and efficiently and agreed that there was no underpayment. Basically the actual conversation lasted two minutes.

    Don’t tell me working from home is working. Sort out your governments departments.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it is odd that you get this experience when trying to contact a Government department, but when it is a business in the private sector, everything generally goes swimmingly, even though you have been warned that things may take longer than normal because many, or often all, staff are working remotely.

    • Posted August 29, 2020 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      You must have been unlucky. I spoke to HMRC by phone yesterday and was on hold for less than 5 minutes, then spoke to a very helpful lady who sorted out the matter in question very quickly and efficiently.

      • Posted August 30, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

        I could provide the phone log evidence should the HMRC wish to check out my claims.

        Yesterday’s incident was a serious problem, no one to answer the phone at all – I can provide evidence of that too.

      • Posted August 30, 2020 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        Actually John, our small company has a telephone log of every call that comes in, who answers it, how long people were put on hold, how long in duration calls lasted. Surely an organisation that is using home-working now had this information available too, they can see how many calls homeworkers are taking, just how long are people being left on hold when phoning Say HMRC, British Transport Police, The Local Council Office, why would they need a recorded message directing people to the internet if this wasn’t a problem, if you hang on as usual you hear it several times, “there is no operator available to take your call right now…. and on.” Don’t take my word for it, ask for the Stats.

  51. Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    “Homeworking and the virus should not become an excuse for reducing service levels or building inconvenience and delay in for the customer.”
    Indeed. Why not point that out to most GPs, many hospitals, DVLA, NS&I and many, many other public sector organisations.

  52. Posted August 29, 2020 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    I have a few concerns about staff working from home.

    Data security, client confidentiality, who is responsible for data breaches if one occurs? Two people working in opposing jobs in the same living room? A partners friend visits and makes a crass joke that someone overhears on the phone or zoom call with one of your best clients, who is responsible?

    Lone workers Health and safety, PAT tests, plus home/work conflicts of interest like childcare.

    Who can access the works equipment? Could a works computer be used by say a child in the evening/weekend who could download a serious virus if the parent didn’t see potential problems allowing them on to the computer? Or they could e-mail one of your clients?

    If you’re sat at a desk designated for work purposes you hear a noise and turn quickly knocking a hot cup of coffee over which hits a child on the floor scalding them who is responsible, if it were a workplace the employer would be responsible and the employers liability insurance would cover it. Similarly if an employee working at a desk designated for work turns to get up to go to the toilet and trips over a toy left by their child is it a workplace injury, how far does the workplace extend? One of my main roles is H&S, ensuring there are no trip hazards, that people take breaks away from the desk, safe practices that there is sufficient first aid kits and first aiders, that we have clean workspaces, that we have up to date fire extinguishers, even signs reminding people to wash their hands when they go to the loo – all requirements of H&S legislation. I could go on but you get the drift.

    Quite often in the office we sort out an operational requirement by quick co-operation, collective experience solves the problems quickly, you haven’t time to arrange a conference call and hope they team is all in and ready to act by zoom.

    I completely agree that there are some jobs that can be done from home and if the employee is mentally and completely onboard and it is beneficial for them to do this but you can’t trash workplace H&S red tape because it suits government at the moment, either you have to apply it in every workplace or you remove it for all. This is a nightmare waiting to happen and just wait for the Unions to get going on this – the chair they had at home wasn’t suitable and on and on it will go….

    Home working is not for everyone and every company and government needs to accept that it is not always available should someone request it.

  53. Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:29 pm | Permalink


  54. Posted August 29, 2020 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Will this herald the death of the City of London?

  55. Posted August 29, 2020 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Where does “ Get back to work“ sit with Hancock’s latest project fear.
    Is this yet another U turn?

  56. Posted August 30, 2020 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    The pressure to ‘return to work’ and stop working from home is coming mainly from Government – national and local – who fear two things:
    (1) Substantial unemployment among services such as sandwich bars, bars, restaurants etc. in London and other big cities, leading two civil unrest and violence.
    (2) The need for massive subsidies to lowly utilised public transport.

    I’m afraid Government will just have to grin and bear it. Who in their right mind would want to an hour and a half each way each day commuting on train plus tube when there is a much more pleasant alternative? The call from the working population is going to be for more home working, not less. The tyranny of bossy extroverts is at an end.

    I see on TV that some secondary school pupils may have to work from home if COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Forget it if you want my vote. There are alternatives, not least a complete ban on religious gatherings of all kinds, which have no economic purpose.

    • Posted August 30, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      It’s not Only the sandwich shop workers, cleaners, lift engineers, window cleaners, car park attendees, shops on the way to the office, – the £50k pa train drivers where will they find equivalent paying positions when tube services get severely cut, the government will have to invest quickly into driverless trains or the subsidies on near empty tube routes will devastate TFL with no season tickets. All the taxi drivers out of work, lots of these big office blocks paid for the sculptures and parks you see all over London, do you want to see what its like when you don’t have a big City nearby, go out to the sticks without a car, one little Indian restaurant, no night life, no evening transport.

  57. Posted August 30, 2020 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    “Those who gamed the system in the office can game the system more easily when at home.”

    Actually that’s not quite the case.

    There’s a greater element of trust in higher-paid, professional roles, but in other roles there’s long been technology deployed to track work performance.

    At one company, we put in an “Agent Performance Dashboard”. It used existing data in one of their core systems that logged the activity on calls and cases. This was slurped up on an hourly basis and pushed into a Business Intelligence system that used the latest hourly data to refresh a dashboard view to the manager which showed how many calls each agent had dealt with (and more detail than that). This allowed the manager to track the performance of their staff in “near real time” rather than having to wait a day or two to see performance stats.

    When lockdown started, this system was used in exactly the same way, but now the agents were working at home so the maanger would call them if there was a problem with their performance.

    Well… usually it was simply that one case had taken longer on the phone that the allocated “average 8 minutes”. Either it was complex or the customer was reluctant to let go.

    The point is that IT systems can provide managers with this kind of info now, so people can’t really game the system easily.

    Also, most are dialling in via a company VPN system which can log things like time at keyboard – note that this isn’t used to hound people…

    The old method of simply checking that people are getting through the amount of work expected of them works too!

    Technology helps in many ways. We should have been using it better for a long time now.

    If we want to improve the environment (not necessarily about global warming, which I don’t believe), then isn’t it obvious to minimise the number of people commuting (and doing school runs, but that’s another story!). Anyone for taking attendance on the school bus?!

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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