The Chancellor, who has previously advocated for a return to workplaces, said that the government is now “leaving it up to business to decide” whether staff should return to the workplace.
In an interview with LinkedIn News, Rishi Sunak has said he thinks young people in particular stand to benefit from getting back into the workplace.
Being in the office 'was really beneficial'
The Chancellor said he recently advised a group of young people that the relationships he’d made in person early in his career have been helpful and he likely wouldn’t have made them if he’d been working remotely
He said, “I have spoken previously about young people in particular benefiting from being in offices.
“It was really beneficial to me when I was starting out in my career.”
He said that on a visit to Scotland recently he told a group of young people how “the mentors I found when I first started my job I still talk to and they have been helpful to me even after we have gone in different ways”.
He added: “I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my internship or my first bit of my career over [Microsoft] Teams and Zoom.
“That’s why I think for young people in particular being able to physically be in an office is valuable.”
“We’ve kind of stopped saying that people should actively work from home and have now left it up to businesses to figure out the right approach.
Official guidance to work from home has been in place since the start of the pandemic, apart from a brief period before the second wave when ministers began trying to encourage people back into offices to help the economy.
The guidance to work from home wherever possible came to an end on 19 July, though many businesses are taking a gradual approach to returning, if at all.
A recent poll found that one in four businesses will allow all their employees to continue working from home, even after all restrictions have been lifted.
One in four staff back in offices at Department for Education
Following Sunak's intervention, apprenticeships and skills minister Gillian Keegan told Times Radio : “I have been in the office four days a week since June last year, as have many of us you know, because obviously we have had to navigate these very difficult decisions during the pandemic.
“And many of the civil servants are also back now, more and more are coming back, and quite frankly they are all excited to come back.”
She added: “We have been there all the time, as have many civil servants who support us.
“Of course, the Government’s advice was to work from home and we have only recently changed that advice to say it is safe to go back to the office.”
“In the Department for Education, I would say probably 20-25% at the moment on any one day, obviously different people are coming in different days.”
She added: “I think we have led by example and I think more and more people will, but we have said ‘use the summer to get people coming back, get people comfortable with coming back’, and you know not everybody will be back all the time, flexible working will be part of our future and we are not telling businesses what to do.
A Government spokesperson said: “The Civil Service continues to follow Government guidance, as we gradually and cautiously increase the number of staff working in the office.
“Our approach, which builds on our learning during the pandemic, takes advantage of the benefits of both office and home-based working across the UK.
“Departments have flexibility to make working arrangements which meet their requirements.”