Sunak encourages young people to return to the office

Written by Alain Tolhurst on 4 August 2021 in News
News

Chancellor says the connections made in the early part of his career would have been harder to forge ‘over Teams and Zoom’

Credit: rawpixel from Pxhere

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has urged young people working from home that returning to the office could be “really beneficial” to their careers and cautioned against allowing remote working to become the norm.

Having recently met with a group of people setting out on a career in financial services, The Times reported that, in an interview with LinkedIn News, Sunak said: “I was telling them that the mentors I found when I first started my job I still talk to and they have been helpful to me even after we have gone in different ways. I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my internship or my first bit of my career over [Microsoft] Teams and Zoom. That’s why I think for young people, in particular, being able to physically be in an office is valuable.”

Last summer the government is understood to have been set to launch a campaign urging people to stop working from home, as ministers warned it would make people more “vulnerable” to being sacked. The publicity drive was meant to make the “emotional case” for returning to the workplace and the mental health benefits of mixing with colleagues.


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But it was abandoned after the second wave of the virus took hold, and Boris Johnson only began to recommend a "gradual return to work” when the final legal Covid restrictions were removed last month.

Meanwhile Gillian Keegan, minister for apprenticeships and skills, was asked by LBC if the government is telling businesses what to do in regards to remote working.

“No, no. We are always saying: 'Is it safe to go back to the office?’,” she said. "Businesses will decide. We're not telling them what to do. There was a time in the pandemic when we basically said 'work from home'. We're now saying that time has gone. It's safe to go back to the office. Use the summer to ramp up that. There'll be flexible working in the future, but it is safe to go back to the office."

The minister added that Department for Education offices are currently about 20-25% full on any given day, with “different people… coming in on different days”.

Keegan herself, however, has been primarily office-based for most of the pandemic.

“I have been in the office four days a week since June last year, as have many of us,” she told Times Radio. “Because obviously we have had to navigate these very difficult decisions during the pandemic.”

 

About the author

Alain Tolhurst is chief reporter for PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @Alain_Tolhurst.

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