Has Johnson got it right clamping down on home working?

Has Johnson got it right clamping down on home working?

A big issue that’s being discussed on the talk shows today is home working and Johnson’s effort to get people back inside their offices. All this follows the turmoil created by the measures to control COVID which necessitated office blocks being closed and staff trying to continue by working in their own living rooms.

His comments come as fellow old-Etonian, JRM, managed to get a picture of himself at his desk without a computer to be seen and the reports that he prints off all emails.

There is little doubt that fewer people commuting into city centres every day has a whole range of consequences including for the economics of public transport and the businesses that provide services to office workers. What’s made home working more feasible is the internet.

A problem for Johnson is that the polling suggests that quite large numbers of people really enjoy the freedom that home working offers. This is from a YouGov survey last year.

Johnson is quoted as saying:

“My experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.” He added: “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office. There will be lots of people who disagree with me, but I believe people are more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas, when they are surrounded by other people.”

I think the PM has read this wrongly and we are going to see much more hybrid working – part office and part at home. The real question is whether the work gets done. Being on the wrong side of public opinion is not smart.

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