Office staff will work from home after easing of lockdown measures despite studies showing effects on productivity

OFFICE workers are set to be told to remain working from home even as some lockdown measures are eased.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not expected to reveal a date for when workers can return to their offices when he unveils his roadmap to return the country to normality on February 22.

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It’s expected the “work from home if you can” message will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

A few large firms have already delayed a return to the office desk until at least the end of the year.

Some studies though have claimed productivity is reduced if workers log in from home rather than the office.

Conservative backbenchers urged the government last night to provide clarity on when staff may be able to return to their desks.

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘We need to get people back to work as soon as possible.

“There are lots of reasons why work is important to our lives. It affects people’s physical and mental wellbeing and there are issues around productivity.

“I would like to see as much detail as possible in the roadmap to help people to make plans. They need to know in advance.”

The “work from home” message was brought in at the start of the first lockdown last March.

That changed though during the summer as Covid cases eased and employees were urged to return to their offices in a bid to get Britain working again, despite objections from Labour MPs and trade unions.

When Johnson announced the third national lockdown at the start of this year he said people should go to work only if they “absolutely” could not work from home.

Asked if Johnson’s roadmap would change this message, a government source told the Daily Mail: “I don’t think that will happen. We have a way to go before that changes.

“We wouldn’t bring in a new message at this stage because it will confuse people. The road map is to set out where we’re going.”

Johnson is currently set to lay out his plans for easing the lockdown restrictions and returning the country to normality on Monday.

He is due to chair a meeting of the Cabinet’s “Covid O” committee later this week and then present the document to Parliament before conducting a televised address to the nation from Downing Street.

While no time frame has been put on the continued working from home message it is thought it will run for some time to come.

It comes as some companies have started drawing up "no jab, no job" contracts as way of making employees get the Covid vaccine.

Lawyers have warned though this strategy is "risky" and could be challenged.

Asked about businesses who introduce a scheme, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said it was "up to them".

A study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in October reveal that bosses believed the nation was less productive when staff were working from home.

It found companies were twice as likely to suffer a fall in productivity when staff worked from home, compared with them being at their office desks.

Of those bosses who had increased homeworking during the pandemic, almost a quarter claimed productivity had declined.

Around a half said it made no difference and 12 per cent claimed output had risen.

The ONS found that less than a fifth of businesses expected to keep more working from home once the pandemic was over, with two-thirds set to go back to their old setup permanently.

The remainder had not yet decided whether they would bring workers back, it added.

A CBI and PwC survey of the financial services industry found three-quarters of firms were reviewing their office space requirements, as costly city centre sites go under-used.

The news about working from home comes as the head of the UK's vaccine taskforce Clive Dix said every adult in the UK could receive both doses of a Covid vaccine by August or September.

If that works out it could allow Johnson to ease lockdown measures.

It was also revealed today Johnson is preparing to ditch the strict "stay at home" lockdown guidelines.


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