Anyone who can work from home should, the Government has announced today, in another change of advice amidst surging coronavirus infection rates.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in Parliament today: “We are once again asking office workers who can work from home to do so.”
He said: “This is the moment we must act. We always knew the prospect of a second wave was real. We’ve reached a perilous turning point.”
There will be hundreds of daily deaths in November, “unless we act”, he said.
The Prime Minister suggested the new restrictions may be in place for up to six months.
Restrictions affecting many walks of life are tightening as the chief medical and science officers warned yesterday that cases could rise to 50,000 a day by November if changes aren’t made.
Only weeks after workers were being encouraged to return to the office, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said this morning that “if you can work from home you should," explaining that this was a change in guidance.
The need to work from home looks highly likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Though guidance has fluctuated already, government advisers yesterday suggested we’re facing a six month challenge to suppress the virus over Autumn and Winter. Therefore, much of the new guidance appears likely to remain in place for a large chunk of that time.
Even if a full scale nationwide lockdown does not materialise later this winter, around one in five people in England are already in a local lockdown area. There will remain a lot of uncertainty over the ability for offices to open.
The role of tech
Although the latest change may be a blow to some businesses, who were hoping to bring more staff back to the office, lockdown and the last few months have proven that location is not as important as it used to be.
You can carry on working anywhere you want - on one proviso - you have the right technology in place.
During the first nationwide lockdown 70% of accountants surveyed by IRIS said they enacted home working, and 49% implemented flexible hours.
We know of many accountants who been working flexibly and in multiple locations, long before the COVID crisis.
Carrying on in COVID-secure offices
Despite today’s announcement, there will be many businesses who continue to operate with staff in the office.
Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that staff can go to their work premises if the correct health and safety regulations have been put in place. He said: "We are stressing that if it is safe to work in your workplace, if you are in a Covid-secure workplace, then you should be there if your job requires it.”