To get the country motoring again we need to be firing on all cylinders, but there is a danger that we’ll have a lopsided recovery if parts of the economy continue to struggle.
When the pandemic swept through the UK most businesses acted very quickly, including having a large proportion of their staff working from home. It was these millions of home workers who have kept the economy afloat from their home offices and living room tables, and for their contribution we owe them a debt of gratitude.
Yes, I have been critical of a few bad apples who I believe have milked the government’s job retention scheme, but they are a small minority, and not to be confused with the vast majority making the best of it at home, either on furlough or working from laptops and mobile phones.
Of course, we must continue to shield those who are vulnerable to infection and less able to fight it off. But it’s also time to get society back to some sort of normal and that includes offices and the other remaining business premises opening up and welcoming back their staff.
This will help boost other areas of the economy, from the dry cleaners to the petrol stations, convenience stores to coffee shops. All these places and more rely on the trade of office workers.
There will be a new balance struck between home and office workers due to COVID, but for the sake of the economy and the jobs of thousands of workers, I hope it swings more towards office-based work.
To make this happen businesses need to take a lead. The government guidelines for social distancing and hygiene are effective.
We’ve had them in operation at Pimlico for months and they work. No one should be scared to go back to the office.
However, flying in the face of all this, was the incredibly frustrating comments Health Secretary Matt Hancock at the weekend, which will only serve to encourage people to stay working from home, when the office is a safe option.
Scaring the life out of people by telling them they could be facing nationwide restrictions and very extensive local lockdowns in the event of a second wave of COVID-19 this winter is no way to get people back to work and get the economy back up to speed. To be honest the health secretary’s comments are verging on irresponsible.
I don’t think his emphasis on another lockdown is helpful. How long can we carry on like this? He needs to be more encouraging than discouraging; if we don’t go back to work, we’re all going to be worse off because, in due course, there will not be jobs to go back to.
The best way to save jobs is for employers to follow the government’s safety measures and reopen.
We need to understand that this virus is going to be around for a while if not forever and we need to learn how to live and work with it. This is why, as I said, in my business we’ve put in place all the safety measures to protect our office staff, engineers and customers.
And I’m sure there are thousands of other responsible companies out there doing exactly the same. If others can follow suit and get the majority of their people back into the office, we will see the economy recover quicker.
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