A group of London-based business leaders has urged the prime minister to encourage people to return to offices and ensure that home working is no longer the default.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, lobby group London First said city centres should be “buzzing” when coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
It stated: “Our economic recovery will only succeed if the government commits to reviving our city centres”.
Johnson is expected to announce that all Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted on 19 July, with measures including mask wearing set to become a personal choice.
The letter, signed by leaders from organisations including Capita, BT and Gatwick and Heathrow airports, said: “At this critical moment, we believe that it is essential that the government is unambiguous in its communications that when the stage four restrictions lift, public transport is safe, offices are safe, and working from home is no longer the default.
“Employers can then move forward with plans for new ways of working, considering the needs of their staff, clients and customers.”
It said the government should launch a promotional campaign to attract commuters back to London, fund the public transport network to keep it operating at full strength, and introduce a reskilling programme for London.
It said a clear plan of action to encourage people back into the capital would “reap significant benefits for the whole of the UK”.
The government and employers face a significant challenge in getting staff back into city centre offices. Accenture research found that 69% of employees in financial services would prefer to work in the office just two days a week or less, while a quarter would prefer to work entirely from home. Only 8% want to return to the office full time.
Last week supermarket chain Asda announced that it would allow its 4,000 office staff to work from home permanently if they chose, while Swiss bank UBS said it would let most staff mix working from home and the office permanently.
Reports emerged that the government has been considering legislation that would make working from home the “default” option by giving employees the right to request it, but this has since been denied. The CBI has said that giving employees the right to work from home under UK employment law would be “the worst thing possible”.