In whose best interests are our government promoting a return to working in offices?

The BBC has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53942542

Well now, apart from thinking at first this seems more like Russian socialist tractor factory ‘advice’ i.e. do it or else, my more sober reaction was why are the Tories saying get back to your offices?

Sage advice I was given in politics and indeed life many moons ago was to understand how to react to a situation you need to know, as far as possible, why what you are reacting to is being said in the first place. So let’s look at the possible motivations:-

* To make public transport more sustainable and for it to require less subsidy – good one
* To help businesses which rely on office buildings (sandwich shops etc.) – good one
* To get people out in their cars driving to work – No, goes against climate change requirements
* To help mental well being – Unlikely as there will as many benefits as disbenefits
* Because employers want it – No, as many will not as they’re eyeing up saving money on office space

Now how about the cynical reason? Those who fund the Tory Party are rich property owners who stand to lose a lot if office space stops being used/rented out at the same scale as before lockdown. Oh yes, you can bet they’ve been lobbying hard and who pays the piper etc. etc. Of all the reasons this will be the main one although unspoken of course by Ministers. You can bet your bottom Dollar, Euro or £ on it in my opinion.

Also on this subject, I happened upon the TUC Leader Frances O’Grady being interviewed on Radio 5 Live about this earlier this evening. It was on one of those infotainment/news programs that 5 Live puts out. As usual she was impressive and to my mind she makes the often media unsavvy trade union movement seem in touch with real people and I say that as a retired TU officer who often despairs of TU leaders in the media such as McCluskey. I have the feeling that she’s a Liberal and does not realise it. I hope I’ve not just caused her problems saying that!

Her contribution to the debate about whether office workers should be pushed/forced/cajoled back into their office blocks was well considered and balanced. And of course she was firm on the difficulties some workers will have working at home in small inappropriate spaces where they can’t get the peace and quiet they need.

So yes, like everything in life one size does not in any way fit all but where appropriate, given the right facilities, working from home has to be right for some people. Government should butt out except to ensure employment standards are met by the money saving employers and they should be thankful that almost by chance the appalling pandemic has potentially reduced climate changing air pollution via some folk no longer having to do the daily commute.

3 thoughts on “In whose best interests are our government promoting a return to working in offices?

  1. Phil Holden says:

    I think it’s much simpler than your conspiracy theory, Tony. If the economy stays in a slump many people will suffer and the government will struggle to get re-elected. Yes they will get lobbied but that usually doesn’t make governments do what they don’t want to do anyway.
    Yes many folk can work effectively from home and a slow trend has been given a rocket boost. There will be a significant shift in office requirements. But it is harder for people to learn, get training and proper feedback and for organisations to change and evolve with the majority working from home. I would not want to have started a new job in February….
    So here’s an alternative conspiracy theory for you. The reason the government can’t get anything done is that only 1 in 10 civil servants are in the office. The civil service probably has less experience of managing people working at home than business. I could give one example where the chap told me his productivity is literally zero.
    I think the government was reluctant to go into lockdown because it realised getting going again would not be trivial. While we have to proceed carefully the damage from carrying on as we are is far greater than the risk from covid. Daily covid deaths have fallen to roughly the typical number of deaths on the roads for example.
    So we need to speed up normalisation. Yes we may have to rein back later but we might not have to and we need to find out how far we can go. Waiting literally kills people, because of covid but not of it.

    Pollution and climate change needs proper long term solutions, not ‘let’s stay at home and pretend we can continue to provide the same quality of life for everyone’. The poorest will suffer the most.

    It’s a good job the nurses, shop workers, police and ambulance services didn’t raise as many concerns as the teachers or go into hiding like the GPs…..

    • It’s my job to call out conspiracy theorists not to be one Phil:-) Knowing from the inside how politics works I am still firmly of the view that the Tory Party does what its donors expect of it and those involved in property are nearly always Tory backers.

      • Phil Holden says:

        OK, I respect that, but you have sidestepped the question of what is best for the people overall, in particular many of the poorest. It is possible that the needs of the poorest and the wants of some Tory donors might actually correspond on this issue.
        Actually the government can only cajole to get businesses back into the office, it has no power. I guess these mysterious donors might be lobbying for the civil service to get back to work, to set an example. In which case I agree with them.
        And on the broader issue we have seen that the need of the Tory party to satisfy ‘red wall’ constituencies may not correspond with the wants of large donors or wishes of traditional party supporters. Jenrick’s planning reforms, intended to make Boris a builder and no doubt supported by big donors, are likely to run into opposition from the shires. So I think you overstate the influence of donors

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