We’re pleased to have supported Centre for Cities new report Office politics: London and the rise of home working. 

Centre for Cities has worked with Professor Dan Graham and his team at Imperial College London to produce Office politics: London and the rise of home working, published in partnership with EC BID, to highlight the potential unintended impact on the Capital’s economy of a long-term shift to hybrid working.

Brought about by the Covid-19 lockdowns, the ‘big experiment’ of remote working triggered a debate about the future of work. The upsides for the employee are clear, but the debate routinely overlooks the benefits that face-to-face interaction brings to companies and the wider economy. Analysing the latest research on current working patterns in the City of London, the report assesses the potential long-term impact of hybrid working on the Capital’s productivity growth.

The report finds that:

  • Predictions of a fully remote new normal have not materialised
  • London has embraced hybrid working but its economic impact is uncertain
  • Policymakers should not passively encourage a reduction in face-to-face interactions

To encourage more workers back to the city centre, the report calls for:

  1. The Government and the Mayor to work with business groups to encourage an increase in the minimum number of days in the office. In London the Mayor should run an equivalent to the ‘Let’s Do London’ campaign for leisure visitors to encourage a greater return to the workplace.
  2. The Mayor to protect existing services on the public transport network to so as not to lengthen commuting times.
  3. The Mayor and Transport for London to consider a temporary scrapping of peak fares on a Friday to encourage more workers to come in on what is the quietest day.
  4. The Mayor to establish a Productivity Advisory Council, akin to the Chancellor’s Economic Advisory Council, made up of businesses familiar with hybrid working and its impact on innovation and productivity.

Policymakers should also be wary of any short-term decisions that make long-term economic growth in central London harder to achieve. For example, they should avoid delays to long-term investment decisions based on assumptions about lower demand remaining permanently, and be wary of a push for more residential space in the centre of the Capital eating up office space.

Kate Hart, Chief Executive of the EC BID, says:

“I am pleased to see the strong recovery in office attendance across London, defying predictions of remote work becoming the new normal.

“However, with most London workers adopting a hybrid-working model, it is vital for the future of London and the wider UK economy that we address challenges that hybrid working poses to creativity, knowledge sharing, and on-the-job learning.

“At EC BID it’s our priority to reinvigorate the Eastern City area, encouraging the return of workers and visitors, to safeguard the future of businesses. There are several interesting recommendations in this report, including a coordinated campaign focused on bringing office workers back and greater flexibility around ticket fares on some days of the week. Ultimately, the report is a timely reminder for both the private and public sector to work collaboratively to enhance the experience of being in the city, foster innovation, and ensure the sustained growth of the capital.”

Read the report