Vaccine rollout raises hopes of return to normal by summer - but what will it mean for city offices

News of the success of the UK's vaccine rollout, this week reaching 10 million doses given, has provided optimism to both the world of business and our day-to-day lives. The Bank of England has announced that it expects a rapid economic recovery in the second half of 2021 and many are reporting that most restrictions could end in May.

This boost will be welcomed by businesses and employees up and down the country but it currently looks unlikely that remote working and work from home will end quickly. New data from the ONS has revealed that home working is currently at a level not seen since last June with 36% operating exclusively at home in the last seven days.

In an attempt to understand what the world of work and offices will look like going forward, accountancy and consultancy firm Theta Global Advisors have commissioned nationally representative research into how the UK's workforce feels about returning to "normal".

Key stats:

- 57% of workers - 11.8 million - do not want to go back to a normal way of working in an office environment with normal office hours

- 65% of working Brits do not feel comfortable commuting to work via public transport anymore and think it will be one of the most stressful parts of their day

- 44% of working Brits are currently working from home and do not expect to return to the office until next year

- 41% of London City workers say the COVID pandemic has encouraged them to look towards consultancy and freelance work or start their own business

- 45% of London City-based workers say the pandemic has made them realise what a poor work-life balance they had pre-lockdown and they will not return to it after COVID

- 63% of City-based workers believe the workplace of the future will have to change drastically for the better to avoid losing its best talent to freelancing and consulting Chris Biggs, Partner at Theta Global Advisors - an accounting and consultancy disruptor - has commented:

"The vaccine rollout is, of course, a huge leap forward in a quest to return to normality and the news that we could be back to normal by the summer is great news for all of us. It seems, however, that this return to normal will likely not mean we're all back in our City offices after June. With companies adopting new policies and a substantial number of the workforce not wanting to return, it may not be until 2022 that offices start to resemble what they were in 2019.

Lockdowns across the country have forced millions of Brits back into their home offices, behind kitchen tables and makeshift working spaces, but many Brits are welcoming increased working at home practices to improve their work-life balance and in turn, their mental wellbeing. It is therefore not surprising that the majority of working people want to see their working practices change for good, take stock of their personal and professional lives, and make work, work for them.

The world of work has changed immeasurably in the last year but far more must be done to ensure that such a vital section of the workforce can work in a way that allows them to be productive and prioritise the needs of their families effectively. Companies could risk losing some of their best talent to either more flexible company cultures or freelance and consultancy work if they do not react to the new normal of professional practices."

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