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Back to the office

Published: 23/09/2021 By Tam van Wyk

September marks the end of the holiday season and is traditionally the time of year we all head back to work and school. Mind you, nothing this year has followed anything like its normal pattern and, over the last 18 months, it has proved extremely difficult to predict what might happen next. Many had predicted, for example, that we would continue working from home, even after the pandemic had ended. That there would be a seismic change in our working practices and that the commute was dead. Many people, as a result, invested considerable sums of money moving to the country and demand for garden offices skyrocketed.

For some time, however, we have been quietly returning to our town centres for both living and working. Not in huge numbers - bit by bit. This month, though, we have seen the first signs of a major change in our behaviour. On Monday 6th September people returned to work in significant numbers. London Underground reported it was their busiest day since the first lockdown (March 2020).

At the same time, demand for London’s buses was up 71% in just one week and rail passenger numbers rose to 66% of pre-pandemic levels. TomTom was also reporting heavy traffic in cities across the country and the congestion was even worse than normal in places like Nottingham and Liverpool. And the pressure is on to get even more of us commuting. The government wants us to revive the many struggling businesses in our town centres and companies want us back at our desks and at our productive best. A Mail newspaper survey of the country's 18 biggest firms revealed that they expect at least half of their staff to be in the office by the end of this week.

But what does it all mean for the property industry? Long and expensive commutes will soon prove tiresome and employers impatient and many of us will want to move back into town and demand for property in London is growing. As the Mail’s headline put it, it’s:
“Back to school, back to work - and back to the future... Britain is finally awakening from its long, debilitating Covid coma. And not before time.”