Post-pandemic working-from-home saves many businesses from rail disruption

Britain faces even more rail strikes in December and January, leading to an even greater increase in the number of people working remotely.

According to workplace data company Freespace, the number of people physically working in offices in London plummeted last week due to industrial action on December 16 and 17, with only 8 per cent of desks occupied on Friday 16 December. This was the lowest level of office occupancy since mid-August, and the equal second-lowest level of 2022.

Richard Burge, chief executive officer at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: “London businesses bear the brunt of the effects of transport and postal strikes.”

However, thanks to the shift to working-from-home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses could be saved from major disruption during industrial action. According to PwC’s Workforce Hopes and Fears survey, 2022/03, 66 per cent of UK employees already work remotely "mostly" or "full time".

In London specifically, one of the benefits of working from home cited by the KCL's Policy Institute was to "Avoid Commuting", which was mentioned by 79 per cent of people. Being prepared and accustomed to working from home has meant that many workers can carry on as normal, without the stress of trying to commute during a rail strike.

This will be positive news for many businesses, as rail disruption shows little sign of easing over the coming weeks, with further industrial action planned. Mick Lynch, Secretary-General of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has rejected the offer of a 4 per cent pay rise for 2022 and 2023 from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), saying “it does not meet any of our criteria for securing a settlement on long term job security, a decent pay rise and protecting working conditions.”

Lynch has now written an open letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak requesting a meeting and saying "it is now clear to my union and the wider public that No. 10 is directing the mandate for the rail companies and has torpedoed the talks."

The RMT has announced that further rail strikes will take place on Saturday, December 24, 2022 from 6pm onwards, Sunday, December 25, 2022, Monday, December 26, 2022 until 6am Tuesday December 27, Tuesday, January 3, 2023, Wednesday, January 4, 2023, Thursday, January 5 2023, Friday, January 6, 2023 and Saturday, January 7, 2023.

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