Property chief demands work from home advice is ditched: Workers MUST return to office to turbocharge economy
- Mark Allan urged the Government to change its guidance that states people should continue work from home if they can until June at the earliest
- He said this approach jarred with the reopening of shops and beer gardens on Monday as well as the prospect of crowds returning to events from mid-May
- A debate is raging about the future of work in the wake of the pandemic with many staff barely setting foot in their office over past year
Workers must return to the office as soon as possible to breathe life into town and city centres across the country, a leading businessman has said.
Mark Allan, chief executive of FTSE 100 property giant Land Securities, urged the Government to change its guidance that states people should continue work from home if they can until June at the earliest.
He said this approach jarred with the reopening of shops and beer gardens on Monday as well as the prospect of crowds returning to events from mid-May.
Vision: Mark Allan urged the Government to change its guidance that states people should continue work from home if they can until June at the earliest
Setting out his vision for the economic recovery, Allan said: ‘We need to get cities full again because they are central to the health of our economy.
‘It means accelerating a safe return to the office if at all possible. As the rest of the economy opens up, we are concerned about the guidance that office workers should work from home until mid-June at the earliest.
‘Cities are desperate to see a return to economic activity that will only truly kick in if travel and working from home guidance is changed. Much of the retail and hospitality trade need office workers to return if these businesses are going to bounce back.’
Land Securities – or Landsec as it is now known – is Britain’s largest listed property developer with an estate worth £11.8billion. It owns shopping centres and retail parks across the country and a large portfolio of offices in London.
A debate is raging about the future of work in the wake of the pandemic with many staff barely setting foot in their office over past year. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show just over half of working adults, or 53 per cent, left home to do their job in the week of March 24 – meaning 47 per cent did not.
David Solomon, boss of Goldman Sachs, has claimed that home working during the pandemic was merely an ‘aberration’.
But JP Morgan chief Jamie Dimon this week said the investment bank would need ‘significantly’ less office space under plans to introduce more remote working. ‘For every 100 employees, we may need seats for only 60 on average,’ he added.
Major employers including HSBC, Lloyds, Grant Thornton and PwC have said they will slash office space after the pandemic recedes. Kevin Ellis, the boss of PwC, said he wants flexible working to become ‘the norm rather than the exception’.
According to Landsec, just 31 per cent of employers have announced firm plans for staff to return to the office from Monday while over three-quarters of London office workers are happy to do so.
‘There is a disconnect between government, employers and employees which could be potentially damaging to the revival of our city centres,’ said Allan.
‘Retailers, restaurants, offices and countless other places have proved they can open safely and responsibly. Now we need to see these locations being energised and enjoyed as soon as we can.’
NOBODY WANTS EVICTION CLIFF EDGE
Land Securities boss Mark Allan has said it is in ‘nobody’s interest’ for the end of the ban on evictions to lead to a ‘cliff edge’ that sends shops, pubs and restaurants to the wall.
A moratorium on business evictions that was introduced last year to help struggling firms ride out the pandemic is due to expire at the end of June. While this has offered breathing space to companies, it is feared this debt pile of unpaid rent could be the death knell for thousands of businesses when landlords ask for cash.
But Allan said: ‘Such a situation is in nobody’s interest. Landsec and our peers want retailers and hospitality businesses to thrive as we emerge from lockdown.’ The moratorium should end in a phased way, he said. He added that the Government ‘are very concerned about creating a cliff edge of job losses’.