UK government departments have been informed to bring officials back into the office this week after work-from-home restrictions were lifted last week.
Senior UK government minister Steve Barclay stated that public servants should “lead the way” and set an example for others to return to pre-pandemic work arrangements.
Despite this attempt at guidance, trade unions that represent civil service workers state that encouraging a full return-to-work neglects workplace transformation experienced in the past few years.
“What I think they fail to recognize is it was government policy that people would sometimes work from home, even before the pandemic,” said Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA trade union. “Most government departments have only got 60% of desks for staff, and that’s reducing in some cases down to 40%, because they are saving millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on office rent.”
Even after initial restrictions were lifted in 2020, public workers that had pivoted to remote working arrangements were allowed to continue working from home due to high demand. Following the recent Omicron spike, workers were encouraged to work from home once more until the restrictions were lifted last week.
According to Barclay, secretaries, which are the top officials in each department, would be in charge of monitoring office usage. He added that offices will be expected to return to full capacity as soon as possible.
The government’s swift pivot away from any type of flexible work arrangement could indicate a larger shift as the world begins to recover from the latest, most transmissible wave of Covid-19.
Despite experts predicting cases to spike in the future, much of the global economy is eager to bring workers back to the workplace. However, some are doing so in a way that negates any progress made in the employee experience in recent years.