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Government Scientists Want People to Continue Working From Home Indefinitely

The number of people working mainly at home rose dramatically at the beginning of the first lockdown, from 5.7% of workers in early 2020 to 43.1% in April, according to research by Understanding Society. The figure – while now a little lower – remains high and the Government’s scientific advisors would like this to continue indefinitely. The Telegraph has the story.

The latest figures show infection levels are now the lowest they have been for eight months, with just one in 1,180 people in England having Covid…

But Government scientists are understood to be concerned that progress could be undermined if people return to work in significant numbers, increasing social contact. 

They are calling for those who can work from home to continue doing so, saying employers should plan so that staff can stay at home or spend limited time in the office until the threat of the global pandemic recedes. One source said there was no reason to return to an office full-time after June 21st if work could be carried out at home. 

Boris Johnson is expected to set out the next stages in the exit from lockdown next week, with people allowed to mix indoors in groups of up to six or two households, and pubs and restaurants allowed to serve indoors from May 17th.

Under the current timetable, limits on social distancing will be lifted on June 21st, but the Government has yet to set out policies about the return of workers to the office. A decision on whether face masks will be required on public transport has also yet to be taken. 

Modelling produced for the Government suggests people will not go back to pre-pandemic levels of contact with others as restrictions lift.

The latest companies to move their staff to home-working are Google and KPMG. Some Government advisors suggest there is no reason for workers to return to the office after June 21st. Yet, along with questions about lower productivity, working from home is a contributing factor to loneliness which many have suffered from during lockdown. “People have forgotten how to be sociable,” said one worker whose business engagements have changed significantly because of “stay at home” orders.

The Telegraph report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Perhaps the Government’s scientific advisers viewed the December 2020 cover of the New Yorker magazine as a guide to how life should be lived, rather than as a warning.

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