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Gloucestershire Business News

Business frustration remains as firms opt for slow return to office

Businesses are experiencing "real frustration" over Government mixed messages over Monday's return to work plans. Meanwhile, it looks like many larger firms have decided to opt for a partial return to the office only.

Dr Roger Barker, the Institute of Directors' policy director, said: "Businesses across the country will welcome the opportunity to begin to return to relative normality from next week.

"However, there has been real frustration about the mixed messages that they have been receiving from the Government, and we are calling for a focus on rebuilding trust and confidence through clear and unambiguous guidance."

The BBC reports that large businesses have said they will maintain a cautious approach to bringing staff back to the office despite the lifting of final Covid restrictions in England on Monday.

It quotes accountancy firm Deloitte which only aims to increase the number of staff in its offices to 50% from next week. It expects that level to stay in place until September.

NatWest says it will bring staff back to the office from 19th July, but it will only be a small number of "priority workers".

While insurance group Aviva told the BBC it expects more people returning but "the vast majority" wanting to combine going into the office with working from home.

It's a situation that is reflected locally too. As reported by punchline-gloucester.com yesterday , energy firm EDF with its head office in Barnwood, said staff could start working from the office "two or three days a week and maintain social distancing". The firm said the overwhelming response is that staff want blended working in future, combining working from home and in the office.

Dr Barker, of the IoD, continued: "The latest guidance has shifted the responsibility from the Government to businesses by removing mandatory rules on things like face masks and replacing them with voluntary recommendations.

"Whilst it is right that companies should be allowed to take decisions based on their own unique circumstances, it is vital that government provides businesses with best practice in developing their own policies.

"There is genuine concern about what the implications will be in terms of liability and legal responsibility for employees and customers. Consumer-facing businesses, in particular, are worrying about how they enforce the rules that they put in place to ensure they protect their staff and customers."

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:"It makes sense that the order to work from home if possible is removed at this stage. The reality is that many firms are well-advanced in their plans and are proceeding with hybrid working models, just as the Government advises. It's up to employers to engage positively with their staff to shape the unique new way of working every business needs to consider."

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