Rishi Sunak: staff may quit if they don't go back to offices after Covid lockdown

The Chancellor warned that people may leave their jobs if their employers force them to work from home permanently

Rishi Sunak has said employees will 'vote with their feet' and leave for rival firms if they end up working from home full time (Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak has said employees will 'vote with their feet' and leave for rival firms if they end up working from home full time (Getty Images)

People may quit their jobs if they are not permitted to work in the office after the Covid lockdown, Rishi Sunak has warned.

The Chancellor called on firms to reopen their doors to workers when restrictions are lifted as he declared that home working is not a substitute for an office environment.

He said staff would “vote with their feet” and leave for rival employers if they ended up working from home full time.

It comes as companies look at how to tackle the issue of remote versus office working beyond the pandemic.

Some firms have already announced plans to close offices, prompting fears for city centres that have already been devastated by months of Covid-19 restrictions and closures.

But in an interview for the Conservative spring forum, Mr Sunak touted the benefits of the physical workplace due to meetings “by chance” and “people riffing off each other”.

‘You can’t beat office culture’

“You can’t beat the spontaneity, the team building, the culture that you create in a firm or an organisation from people actually spending physical time together,” he said.

Young people also reaped the benefits of proximity to experienced mentors when working in an office, the Chancellor added.

“Imagine you’ve just left college or university you start this job in a big company and you’re sitting at home on your own,” Mr Sunak said.

“How do you get to know your peers, how do you learn the culture of an organisation, how do you get those mentors, which are important for your career development?”

Prominent figures – including Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey – declared in recent weeks that they believe the five-day-a-week office commute is over.

Eat Out To Help Out will not return

During the wide-ranging interview, the Chancellor also indicated that the Eat Out To Help Out scheme will not return this spring or summer once lockdown eases.

The scheme sought to encourage diners to return to restaurants and pubs with a state-backed discount in a bid to boost the economy, but Mr Sunak said that people are still expected to “get out there” once hospitality reopens.

Asked what incentives he was considering to encourage Brits to spend their savings, he said: “Last year we were worried about whether once things reopened people would get out there and spend.

“I think this time around, we know now, both from our experience and from looking around the world, that actually once you reopen things it seems that people will get out there and do what they do best, which is go have fun.

“So, I think there is probably less (of a) role really for government to encourage or incentivize that.”