Boris Johnson’s push to get Britons back to the office suffered another blow today with a poll showing that three-quarters want to keep working from home.
Research for MailOnline found 74 per cent who had been doing their job at home during lockdown would prefer to continue to do so, at least some of the time.
There is also widespread distrust of the government’s claim that it is safe to return to offices, with 37 per cent saying they believe that is the case but 40 per cent saying it is not.
The resistance to the drive comes despite the public overwhelmingly agreeing that remote working will damage the economy, by a margin of 42 per cent to 27 per cent.
Ministers have been warning that previously thriving town and city centres could collapse due to footfall disappearing.
However, a publicity campaign to encourage people to return has been delayed from this week, seemingly due to concerns that more civil servants should be in offices first.
No10 caused confusion this afternoon by insisting there was not going to be a ‘back to work’ PR push – despite saying that adverts would have the intention of getting people into offices safely.
Research for MailOnline found 74 per cent who had been at home during lockdown would prefer to continue to do so, at least some of the time
There is also widespread distrust of the government’s claim that it is safe to return to offices, with 37 per cent saying they believe that is the case but 40 per cent saying it is not
The resistance to the drive comes despite the public overwhelmingly agreeing that remote working will damage the economy, by a margin of 42 per cent to 27 per cent
The PM’s official spokesman told reporters: ‘There has never been a ”back to work” campaign.’
He said social media posts, along with paid adverts, would this weekend encourage employers to consult the Government’s guidance on making workplaces ‘Covid-secure’ to ensure ‘more people can spend some of their time working from the office’.
A ‘partnership’ with regional and local media, in place since June, will carry a similar message ‘shortly’, said the Number 10 spokesman.
‘We are promoting how to make your workplace Covid-secure so more people can work from the office,’ he added.
‘What we’ve also done is change the guidance to give employers more discretion over how their employees can work safely.
‘The PM does want to see people discussing their working arrangements with their employers.’
There has been growing Tory unrest at the situation, with Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 backbench committee, complaining this morning there had been a problem for ‘months’ with official guidance on working from home contradicting the government’s stated policy.
Mr Johnson was roasted at PMQs yesterday for overseeing ‘mess after mess’ after the latest chaotic shift of position on lockdowns. Bolton and Trafford were among a series of areas in the North West due to see restrictions eased – but the plan was abandoned at the last moment.
Sir Graham said the muddle was ‘disappointing’.
And he warned that rumoured tax rises to fill the Treasury’s financial black hole left by Covid could ‘stifle’ the recovery.
‘The necessity is that we don’t make this crisis any worse than it needs to be,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Senior figures from the Bank of England cast doubt on the prospects for a quick return to offices during an evidence session with MPs yesterday.
The executive director for financial stability, Alex Brazier said it was clear that the ‘people have a caution about the public health issues’.
‘I feel safe coming to work, but I quite understand why many people might not,’ he said.
‘Public transport capacity is a related factor there.’
He said the other reason was that there was simply not enough capacity when social distancing was factored in.
‘It’s not possible to use office space, particularly in central London and dense places like that, with the intensity that we used to use it. It’s not possible to bring lots of people back very suddenly,’ he said.
Mr Johnson hinted yesterday that ‘flexible’ season tickets could be introduced soon to encourage workers to get back to offices.
Mr Johnson (pictured in Whitehall today) hinted yesterday that ‘flexible’ season tickets could be introduced soon to encourage workers to get back to offices
The PM said the government and rail companies were cooperating ‘at pace’ to develop tickets that can be used a few times a week.
Meanwhile, the huge damage to Boris Johnson’s reputation from the coronavirus crisis was laid bare today after another humiliating U-turn.
A poll for MailOnline found 39 per cent of the public have a more negative view of the PM due to the shambolic handling of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, just 21 per cent said their opinion had improved. Alarmingly for Downing Street, the results were starkly different for Labour leader Keir Starmer – with his stock having risen significantly.