Commuters have welcomed their freedom to return to the office, despite many believing the government’s motives had more to do with political expediency than science.
“We’re opening back up today for a mixture of reasons, the biggest of which is that the government needs a distraction because of all the things that have been going on in Downing Street,” said Marianne Phillips, an accountant on her way to the office for the first time since the pandemic began, at Euston station on Wednesday morning.
“But even though they might be opening up for the wrong reasons, it’s still the right time for people to get back to the office. Especially as any responsible company will be taking precautions – we’re being allowed to work flexitime, so we can avoid rush hours. I am slightly nervous because it’s been a long time but it’s the right thing to do, to get back to the office, and I’m happy I’m doing it,” she said.
Emma, who works in the charity sector, was taking the opportunity to go to the office to collect some equipment before returning to work from home. “The government has only told us it’s OK to come back to the office because they want to be seen to be doing something,” she said. “We’ve had the same rules in place for ages and they need to change them every so often, to look like they know what they’re doing.
“Having said that, the economy does need to recover and as long as I’m not required to commute during rush hour, I don’t mind coming in a few days a week.”
Diana Ursachi, an accountant, said she wanted to return to her workplace full-time. “We lost my dad from Covid during the pandemic, so it’s not been easy,” she said. “But I’ve had Covid, I’ve had my three jabs, and it’s time to get back to normal. We live with other diseases. We need to learn to live with this one now.”
But others were more sceptical. “How can they change the rules from one day to the next after just one little speech?” asked Yasmine Ikhlef, a business developer for the construction industry, who was at East Finchley station in north London.
“It’s not right or fair to spend two years telling people that they can’t leave their house for fear of dying – and then suddenly say it’s OK to go back to work. I don’t trust this decision has anything to do with the science,” she added. “I fully expect that, in a few months, we’ll be told we need to all work from home again.”
Others said they have made the decision for themselves already. Paul Lin, a website developer who was at Euston station, said: “I used to spend a fortune to waste between two and four hours commuting into London every day from Bedfordshire,” he said. “But the pandemic has changed all that.
“I wouldn’t take any contract now that required me to work more than one day a week in the office. There’s still some resistance to that idea in my industry, but as far as I’m concerned, the pandemic has proven it’s not necessary for us to work in offices for even the majority of the time – my sector especially can work from home perfectly efficiently.
“The old ways are gone now,” he added. “Employees’ attitudes have changed and employers are just going to have to catch up.”