Almost half of staff at UK offices had returned before new advice – report

Joanna Partridge
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

The number of UK workers returning to their desks gathered pace this month with 45% of office staff heading back to work, compared with 37% in August.

The number of staff going back was rising steadily before Boris Johnson once again urged employees in England to work from home wherever possible to try to contain the second wave of coronavirus.

Before the prime minister’s intervention on 22 September, the government had been encouraging people back into their workplaces to help revive the economy.

The data on the number of staff returning to office jobs, collected by the Alphawise research unit of Morgan Stanley investment bank, was compiled on 14-17 September. In August 37% of workers had gone back, up from 34% in July.

However, even at 45%, the UK was lagging well behind much of Europe, where 75% of office staff had returned.


In France, 88% of office workers had returned, and in Spain 80% were back, despite a resurgence of the virus in those countries. In Italy, 83% of office staff were back at their desks.

Almost a third (32%) of UK office staff were working from home five days per week, making Britain a “notable outlier” in the survey, Morgan Stanley said.

By comparison, across continental Europe just 16-19% of office workers were working from home five days a week.

In London, almost two-thirds (63%) of office workers were spending between three and five days a week at home.

In Paris, just 29% of employees were working from home for more than half of the week, compared with 47% in Madrid and 32% in Berlin.

More than 70% of UK workers said they were working at home because their employer had made the decision or their office was closed, rather than it being a personal choice.