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Get back to the office, Britain's business minister says

01/21/2022 | 06:03am EDT
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng arrives at the BBC Headquarters

LONDON (Reuters) - People should get back to the office to benefit from in-person collaboration because the world must learn to live with the coronavirus after a pandemic that has wiped trillions of dollars off global output, Britain's business minister said on Friday.

After the novel coronavirus emerged in China in late 2019, work-from-home instructions across the world emptied office towers from Manhattan to Canary Wharf leaving millions toiling from home.

Juggling sometimes shaky home internet connections, frustrated lockdown children and unmuting - or not - on often meandering video calls with work colleagues became the norm for many office workers.

In England, British Prime Minister is scrapping COVID rules - and dropped work from home advice from Wednesday.

"We should get back to work," British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told LBC radio. "We've got to get back to some degree of normality."

"People working in the office do get benefits from working with colleagues, being able to interact directly with them and I want to get back to a sense that, you know, that the pandemic is turning from a pandemic into an endemic," he said.

Johnson, betting that Omicron has peaked, says the world needs to live with COVID and that economies cannot remain shut for much longer. He has said London will recover as it learns to live with COVID.

"It's something we have to live with. And if we are going to live with it, I think the sooner we get back to the pre-Covid world the better in terms of workplace practices," Kwarteng said.

Kwarteng said he was trying to increase the number of people working back in government departments. He said around 50% of his department was back to work in person, though he cautioned he didn't have exact data.

Some bosses have urged people back to work. Goldman Sachs' CEO has called home working an "aberration" while Stuart Rose, chairman of supermarket group Asda, said he had been working at the office throughout the pandemic.

"I cannot believe we have a nation sitting at home now cowered by this government," Rose said. "It is something we have to now live with."

Other companies, especially in the technology sector, have offered hybrid working options - or full working from home - to those employees who have welcomed a reduction in commuting times and increased flexibility.

London, the only financial capital to rival New York, still appears subdued.

Whole floors of towers in Canary Wharf remain empty while many businesses in the City of London remain shuttered. Some sandwich shops have gone bust while transport use is way below pre-pandemic levels.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Kate Holton)

© Reuters 2022
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