Nearly two-thirds of adults commuting again, says ONS

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Nearly two in three adults are now travelling to work, as some employers ask their staff to return to offices during the pandemic.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that 62% of adults reported commuting to work last week.

That compares with 36% in late May, soon after the ONS began compiling the figures during lockdown.

The government has been campaigning for workers to return to offices to boost city centres.

However, the new commuters seem to include few workers who have been able to do their jobs from home during the pandemic.

While the proportion of people travelling to work has increased from 57% two weeks ago, the number of people working from home stayed steady at 20%.

Instead, “the proportion of working adults not working from home or travelling to work reduced from 23% to 18%, suggesting more people are returning to work”, the ONS said.

Business leaders have been vocal in urging the prime minister to do more to encourage staff back to the workplace.

The employers’ organisation, the CBI, previously warned that city centres could become “ghost towns” if more staff do not return, with businesses relying on passing trade from office workers.

Work-life balance

However, new research released on Thursday by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests that working from home could be a permanent fixture for many, following the pandemic.

According to the survey of 1,000 employers, 37% believe staff will regularly avoid the journey into the office following Covid-19 – up from just 18% before the pandemic.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said: “The step-change shift to home working to adapt to lockdowns has taught us all a lot about how we can be flexible in ways of working in the future.

“Employers have learnt that, if supported and managed properly, home working can be as productive and innovative as office working and we can give more opportunity for people to benefit from better work-life balance.

“But it doesn’t suit everyone and increasingly organisations will have to design working arrangements around people’s choice and personal preference over where and when they would like to work, whilst also meeting the needs of the business.”

Furlough wind-down

The ONS also found that about one in 10 workers are still furloughed under the government’s job retention scheme. Under the scheme, workers placed on leave have been able to receive 80% of their pay, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

That level is likely to fall in coming weeks as the government has started to scale back the amount of money it pays out to furloughed workers.

Companies who want to furlough their staff have had to pick up at least 10% of the bill since the beginning of September. In October, they will have to pay 20%.

Almost 10 million workers have been furloughed since March, but the scheme is set to end entirely on 31 October.