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Author Topic: Returning to work - but at home, or at the office? Effect on travel  (Read 3025 times)
grahame
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« on: August 26, 2020, 08:48:29 am »

Current data suggests that trains are currently running across the GWR area with around a third to a fifth of the passenger numbers that they were carrying at this time last year (4 week period), but that's a step up of around a quarter on the previous 4 week period.  Where are we headed?

From The BBC this morning


Quote
Fifty of the biggest UK employers questioned by BBC have said they have no plans to return all staff to the office full-time in the near future.

Some 24 firms said that they did not have any plans in place to return workers to the office.

However, 20 have opened their offices for staff unable to work from home.

It comes as many employees return to work from the summer holidays with the reality of a prolonged period of home working becoming increasingly likely.

The BBC questioned 50 big employers ranging from banks to retailers to get a sense of when they expected to ask employees to return to the office.

One of the main reasons given for the lack of a substantial return was that firms could not see a way of accommodating large numbers of staff while social distancing regulations were still in place.

Many companies said they were offering choice and flexibility to those who want to return, particularly in the banking and finance sectors.

A few firms have already announced they have no plans to return to the office until late autumn, and Facebook has said it does not plan a return of employees until July 2021.
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stuving
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« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2020, 09:26:20 am »

One thing I've not yet seen mentioned (though I expect it was in the vast amount of written stuff I've not sampled) is the impact of RSI and the ergonomes. Once your employer asks and/or requires you to work at home, rather than both parties being subject to government diktat, do they become liable for the suitability of your home for working in? Will you be able to sue them for industrial injuries - I think this is the case for your car, if your work involves driving? Are the unions and lawyers already looking at this? (The answer to that last question must be yes.)
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Ralph Ayres
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« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2020, 10:26:28 am »

Internet/phone connections are another issue. Most people are probably happy to use the access they already pay for when working from home (though the employer paying a share would no doubt be welcome) but if a fault develops and the employee is therefore unable to work then who is responsible? I've already heard of firms saying that staff would have to use annual leave in such a situation. This would not be the case in an office, and the business would be able to exert more pressure to get it fixed quickly than an individual domestic customer would.
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2020, 11:49:29 am »

Something that I don't think anyone has quite said yet is: Isn't it a really good thing if fewer people need to travel for work?

Many of us here find transport fascinating, exciting even, but I think it is fair to assume that the majority of commuters are more than happy not to spend a significant part of their day crammed onto buses or trains, or sitting fuming in a traffic jam listening to the inanities of drivetime radio. Of course this change is economically disruptive; our transport systems and planning policies have been ratcheting up to provide for an increasingly-hypermobile world, and suddenly we have changed course towards uncharted waters.

Any change, even a change for the better, presents problems. You can't make an omelette without opening a packet of tofu. But do most people really want things to go back to how they were?

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Phantom
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« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2020, 12:07:43 pm »

One thing I've not yet seen mentioned (though I expect it was in the vast amount of written stuff I've not sampled) is the impact of RSI and the ergonomes. Once your employer asks and/or requires you to work at home, rather than both parties being subject to government diktat, do they become liable for the suitability of your home for working in? Will you be able to sue them for industrial injuries - I think this is the case for your car, if your work involves driving? Are the unions and lawyers already looking at this? (The answer to that last question must be yes.)

The person working at home should really be completing a DSE assessment on their new work surroundings.
It is their responsibility to ensure they complete the DSE and then their employers can react accordingly if required
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mjones
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« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2020, 12:18:30 pm »

Privacy and data protection needs to be considered as well. Many people currently working at home are having to share space with partners,  housemates etc. That isn't ideal for calls involving personal information,  staff appraisals etc. I think there has been too much complacency about the issues discussed in this thread in many organisations.
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stuving
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« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2020, 12:31:48 pm »

Yougov have just released the results of a survey in France, showing overall WFH rates of 27% during lockdown now having fallen to 15% For the Ile-de-France region the figures are 39% and 14%, and for Paris 45% and 22%. All of those are lower than the equivalent rates here - 35% to 29% for the UK. I'm not sure they are truly equivalent, e.g. on timing, nor if the explanation offered - more emplyment in the UK suitable for doing at home - is convincing.

And then there's the difference in government advice on safe loading levels in trains: in France it's virtually "wear a mask and any level is OK".
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Lee
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« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2020, 12:58:16 pm »

Yougov have just released the results of a survey in France, showing overall WFH rates of 27% during lockdown now having fallen to 15% For the Ile-de-France region the figures are 39% and 14%, and for Paris 45% and 22%. All of those are lower than the equivalent rates here - 35% to 29% for the UK. I'm not sure they are truly equivalent, e.g. on timing, nor if the explanation offered - more emplyment in the UK suitable for doing at home - is convincing.

And then there's the difference in government advice on safe loading levels in trains: in France it's virtually "wear a mask and any level is OK".

A couple of points to add to that. Firstly, quite a few people, particularly from Paris and the surrounding Ile-de-France region, escaped to their second homes or parents homes in less built-up parts of France (not least to here in Brittany) during the time gap between lockdown being announced and it actually taking effect. Many have since returned - Were these "escapees" classed as "working from home" during lockdown?

Secondly, unlike in the UK, rail timetables here in France are now almost all as they would have been in a pre'-Covid summer, and have been for some time now. The upcoming "back to work" Autumn rail timetables are also as you would normally expect for the time of year.
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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2020, 02:21:10 pm »

More from the BBC

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Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, more of us have been getting used to working from home. With social distancing measures still in force, some companies have suggested workers may not be back in the office until 2021.

So if you're getting bored with the same four walls, are you allowed to pack up your home office and work remotely from another country?

Nothing new there - Lisa did it 23 years ago - visited me in the UK from Florida, worked from Easterton with incoming and outgoing via fax, ftp, email on phone lines. Salary paid into her USA account, drawn out of ATM via credit card.  Mind you, we were early adoptors of the technology.

Privacy and data protection needs to be considered as well. Many people currently working at home are having to share space with partners,  housemates etc. That isn't ideal for calls involving personal information,  staff appraisals etc. I think there has been too much complacency about the issues discussed in this thread in many organisations.

There's a huge difference from one person's job to the next, and a big difference between a few days, a few months and permanent.  Consider too tenancy agreements where the property is let as a private home and the tenant may not carry on his trade there, and things like "Employers must, by law, prevent people from smoking at work if within an enclosed or substantially enclosed space or in certain vehicles".  May sound just that bit far fetched, but when we lived up the road, we had planning permission for dual use, and "no smoking" signs on the door. And, yes, business insurance, etc.

Something that I don't think anyone has quite said yet is: Isn't it a really good thing if fewer people need to travel for work?

Maybe not, but I think I got quite close.  Travel to work can be a waste of time, provision of extra facilities (be that wider roads or more carriages) that are only really needed at the peak is hardly cost effective, and we can be much more climate friendly and improve the quality of life if we move into an era in which the top is cut off the travel peak.

I guess I have lived a none-commuting life style for the last 20 years and a none-9-to-5 one too for 15 years. It worked for me and I would recommend it.
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« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2020, 02:31:26 pm »

My previous manager was a stickler for having people in the office at all times (he must be very uncomfortable with these new ways of working). At my company now we've been Working at home since mid March and this has been extended to at least the start of November.. The office is open for people who can only work from there and also some people who live on their own have taken advantage of going in occasionally for a change of scenery (and canteen food).

I definitely don't miss my three hours of commuting a day and the being crammed onto trains so hope we won't be made to go back anytime soon. My current manager fortunately agrees with that opinion. I suspect it would be silly to make people go back to work over winter when germs and viruses are more prevalent anyway. People working at home where they can also keeps the trains available and safer for social distancing for those people who have no option other than to use them.
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grahame
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« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2020, 06:30:09 am »

Something that I don't think anyone has quite said yet is: Isn't it a really good thing if fewer people need to travel for work?

[snip]

Any change, even a change for the better, presents problems. You can't make an omelette without opening a packet of tofu. But do most people really want things to go back to how they were?


Some really do look as if they want things back as they were ...  BBC report

Quote
City centres could become "ghost towns" if the prime minister does not to do more to encourage workers to go back to the office, the head of the CBI says.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said allowing staff to work from home had helped keep firms afloat during the pandemic.

But as offices stood empty, thousands of local businesses that relied on the passing trade were suffering, she said.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Dame Carolyn said the UK's offices were "vital drivers" of the economy, supporting thousands of local firms, from dry cleaners to sandwich bars.

"The costs of office closure are becoming clearer by the day. Some of our busiest city centres resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade.

"This comes at a high price for local businesses, jobs and communities," she said.

She said getting people back into offices and workplaces should be "as important" as the return to school, and directly appealed to Boris Johnson to "do more to build confidence".

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grahame
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« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2020, 07:00:22 am »

The newspapers have picked this up too - from the  BBC

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"We must rescue ghost town Britain" is the headline in the Daily Mail.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, who is the head of the business organisation the CBI, argues in the paper that getting employees back into their offices, post-lockdown, is as important for the country as returning pupils to the classroom.

The paper contrasts the courage of front-line workers during the peak of the pandemic, with what it sees as the reluctance of most people to give up the habit of working from home.

"The professional classes," it says, "seem troublingly reticent follow the lead of these lion-hearts".

Similar sentiments are expressed by the Sun, which accuses firms that don't require their staff to return to the workplace of "strangling the golden goose of commerce, just as we need to stimulate an economic recovery".

Its opinion column points out that "the best companies create via teamwork in offices". It fears that, if working from home becomes the norm, "productivity and innovation will nosedive".

However, the i newspaper believes there are arguments for allowing people to have a say in where they do their jobs. "Blanket enforcement of one policy or the other will only leave swathes of the workforce unhappy."

Isn't nearly everyone looking out for what's effective for them and their organisation's future ... and perhaps it is very much a brave step to look to a new, more sustainable, higher life quality normal.
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CyclingSid
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« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2020, 07:18:26 am »

At my place of work we have seen people come into work when their home system/connection fails. Home IT systems for most users are probably less reliable than office systems managed by a dedicated IT team.

Also our employer has noticed that some staff with poor connections at home have been logging on through 4G, and doing the sums have realised that could be a million pound hit to the organisation's budget.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2020, 10:57:21 am »

There are so many points I could pick up on in this thread that I could easily write a War and Peace length reply, so I’ll confine myself to just a few!

I think it is beginning to become clear now that, despite what some employers and local businesses and the government might want, we will not be going back completely to the old ways any time soon. I was interested to read earlier in the thread the compassion with France, but I don’t know (perhaps Lee does so can answer the query) whether the French commute such large distances that are commonplace in the UK. This may well have a bearing on the matter.

If, for sake of argument, you live in the affluent north western suburbs of Bristol and work at Canary Wharf, you have at least a two and a half hour commute each way ie. Home to Parkway or BTM (say 20 mins), at least an 80 min train ride to PAD, then half an hour or so on TfL. Add on a bit for waiting for trains and walking station platforms etc and you have the 150 minutes. Then do it all again in reverse at the end of the day, and that is 5 hours of the day gone. Then add the working day itself say 9 hours including lunch break, and 14 hours of your 24 hour day is accounted for. Then when at home you have to sleep, eat and hopefully get a bit of relaxation in, and you’ve only got ten hours a day to do it in. And you do that 5 days a week.

If you are of a nervous disposition regarding COVID (and even if you’re not!) that is one hell of a lot of potential exposure to the virus in all manner of different situations. I can fully understand the reticence that many may feel about going back to work, especially when considering that you can do a 9-hour day at home and have a much better overall quality of life into the bargain.

I find it difficult to believe that any responsible employer would tell their employees to take annual leave because their home internet connection was down (cowboy employers might be another matter). As said earlier, many companies have a dedicated IT team who can often sort out computer glitches remotely by” taking over” a home PC and, if not, I have yet to come across a computer shop that does not have a premium call-out service that can sort your problems out (albeit for a healthy price) within 24 hours.

Finally, I am not displaying any closet left wing leanings (because I haven’t got any...) when I say this, but I am a little perplexed by a conservative government getting so concerned about “ghost towns.” I thought the Tory mantra was to let market forces decide. That was certainly what they said 40 years ago as they presided over then end of heavy industry and most of the mining industry in the UK.

Are things different this time because politicians can see the effects outside their windows in Westminster? Only asking...
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« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2020, 11:12:44 am »

It'll be interesting to see if, longer term, house prices even out a little bit and places such as Maidenhead become less attractive places to live in as people won't need to live so close to London.  It looks as if commuting will be reduced significantly, but long distance commuting could actually rise as a result of people only going in to their offices a couple of days a week. 

Huge longer term changes are ahead.
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