“It’s damaging for the City”: the streets of London after the holidays remain calm | Business
As the bells rang at 1 p.m. in the City of London on Tuesday, the typical lunchtime exodus from offices in the capital’s financial district was barely a trickle.
A handful of workers left the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street during their lunch break, but most of the scattered people were dressed for a day of shopping or sightseeing rather than sitting behind their desks.
Normally, Tuesday would have marked the first day back to work after the Christmas festivities for millions of office workers nationwide. Despite data suggesting the Omicron Covid-19 variant is less severe than other versions of the virus, coupled with figures indicating that cases in the capital have stabilized, staff in most large offices appeared to continue to work from home. .
Morning rush hour in London remained well below pre-pandemic levels, according to data from Transport for London. Before 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning, TfL reported around 770,000 taps on its buses and around 710,000 entrances and exits on the metro network, which is far fewer passengers than when the workers returned in January 2020. Then, around 6 million daily trips were made by bus, and 4m by tube.
Those traveling to the capital have faced sharply reduced services, with all Southern trains to and from London Victoria being canceled until January 10 due to pandemic-related staff and service shortages reduced across the network. Scotrail has cut approximately 8% (160) of its services out of the 2,000 trains it normally operates.
Figures from GPS maker TomTom showed morning rush hour congestion on inner city roads, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff, remained at half of levels seen in early January 2020, before the British pandemic, or even less.
Most workers who had gone out for lunch in the City to buy a sandwich or stretch their legs reported coming to the office to perform specific tasks, or because they preferred it to working from home.
Financial services worker Sam Lowres, 23, returning to the office after his lunch break was over, was surprised by the city’s calm. An Aquis Exchange employee, Lowres has only been working in the neighborhood for six months since graduating from college last summer. He said he much preferred to work from his office, where he had a better computer setup.
“I live in a small apartment. There is more space to work in the office and a separation from the home, ”he said. “A lot of places encourage working from home until at least the end of January.”
Walking past the Royal Exchange, Patrick Tomlinson, head of business continuity and crisis management at investment bank Rothschild & Co, said he had to do work that could only be done in the office. and that he enjoyed a quiet workplace.
“I can come later to avoid rush hour. The company has a flexible approach, ”he said, adding that the company was monitoring Covid data to decide what to do next.
Lawyers Gorkem Ozsoy and Caryn Toh said their jobs require them to be in the office at least part of the time, whether it’s meeting clients or preparing for in-person hearings.
“The nature of the job doesn’t allow you to work from home all the time,” Ozsoy said. “Initially, everyone worked from home for the first six months [of the pandemic]. Now everyone has had enough or wants to come back.
Toh added, “We have to prepare court packages and I usually prefer to be in the office for that.”
When the government tightened its coronavirus guidelines again in early December, urging staff in offices in England to work from home whenever possible, many large companies decided to take a more flexible approach than at the start of the pandemic.
Large office companies, including insurance companies Legal & General and Aviva, are among those that have decided to keep their office buildings open. Aviva, which employs 16,000 people in the UK, said staff who couldn’t work from home for any reason could come to its offices. L&G said it is keeping its offices and cafes open for one of its 7,000 UK employees “who cannot work effectively from home”, including those who need to work in the office for their mental well-being .
Inside the town’s historic Leadenhall Market, there are plenty of sandwich shops and take-out cafes, which in pre-Covid times would have expected queues at the gate during most hours of lunch, remained closed. Some had pasted handwritten signs in the window saying they would reopen the following week, while others gave no indication of their return.
Beautician Sue Durrant, based at Checkers hair and beauty salon in the covered market, said she saw only one client on Tuesday. “It’s the first day back and I haven’t got anyone else booked,” she said. “It was very quiet and everyone seemed to be working from home. It is really damaging for the City.