The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has urged the city’s office workers and businesses to embrace post-pandemic hybrid working, with staff returning to offices for one or more days a week, as the prospect of more after-work socialising gives London’s hospitality sector a much needed boost.
‘After Work Social’ roundels have been installed in three central London Tube stations from today as part of TfL’s ‘Welcome Back London’ campaign to encourage people to safely return to the public transport network. This follows the installation of roundels in July with messages capturing the spirit of what everyone has been missing, including ‘Going Out Out’ in Shoreditch High Street, ‘Retail Therapy’ at Bond Street, ‘Opening Night’ in the West End and ‘Best Day Ever’ at Gloucester Road.
Nearly half of all Londoners worked from home during the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics, and research by YouGov found that one in four businesses intend to allow all workers to work from home at least some of the time from now on.
With restrictions removed and the summer holidays coming to an end it is vital businesses address the monumental shift in working habits that has occurred over the last 18 months, in order to support their employees and, in turn, the one in five Londoners who work in the hospitality and retail sectors.
A recent survey found that younger people especially are excited by the prospect of a return to the office with face-to-face collaboration, lunches with colleagues, building working relationships and after-work socialising all seen as key benefits of coming into the city.
Whilst weekend visitor numbers to central London are improving, now at around 75 per cent compared to 2019, weekday visitors are still at around 54 per cent compared to before the pandemic. Meanwhile, spending in central London is still 60 – 80 per cent of 2019 figures, before the pandemic, though many parts of central London saw spending increase in June and July.
More people are returning to the TfL network, with ridership on the Tube between 8am and 9am yesterday (1 September 2021) 14 per cent higher than that seen last Wednesday and the highest levels since the start of the pandemic, as the summer holidays ended and people returned to work across London. Tube ridership is regularly reaching 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and bus ridership is at around two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels.
At weekends, ridership is even higher – with two million Tube journeys being made last Friday, more than 1.8 million journeys made last Saturday and 1.43 million journeys made last Sunday. Overall, during the recent Bank Holiday weekend, Tube and bus ridership both hit over 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. This returning confidence has been based on TfL’s continuing work to keep London’s transport network clean and safe. Independent testing by Imperial College London has been carried out monthly since September 2020 and has found no traces of coronavirus on the capital’s public transport network.
However, the Mayor recognises that the pandemic has not gone away and that working habits have changed for good. He is encouraging employers to work with staff to build systems that work both for those who would prefer to work from home and those who would rather return to the office on a more regular basis. The Mayor continues to urge Londoners to wear their masks on public transport, respect each other’s personal space and get fully vaccinated.
It is not only office workers that the Mayor is keen to see return to enjoy the city. Sadiq has invested £7m in his ‘Let’s Do London’ campaign – the largest domestic tourism campaign the capital has ever seen, bringing together London’s leading hospitality, culture and retail organisations to help attract Londoners and visitors from across the UK back to central London.
The Let’s Do London Lates season, launched today, includes a wide range of exciting activities for Londoners and visitors alike to experience at night and encourages visitors back out to the city’s world-leading cultural experiences. The Tate Modern, Science Museum and the London Dungeon will all be hosting special late night events. There will also be late night jazz and cabaret in the crypt of St Martins in the Field, outdoor cinema screenings at the Barbican and a unique late night collaboration between the English National Opera and Fabric Nightclub called London Unlocked: Live.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “London’s recovery is vital, not only for our own economy but for that of the entire country. A key part of our recovery will be getting our world-leading hospitality sector back on its feet in a safe and sustainable way. The return of more workers to the city, alongside domestic tourists, is vital to support this.
“The virus has not gone away and every business must look closely at staff wellbeing, safety and work/life balance as they plan how to work in a world still being shaped by the pandemic. But I believe we will continue to see a steady increase in the number of people returning to central London workplaces in the coming months as confidence increases and workers take advantage of opportunities for the face-to-face interactions you just can’t replicate on a Zoom call.
“For now, London’s streets and public transport are quieter than usual, allowing everyone to get around even more easily. So my message remains: whether you’re coming into the office, to meet friends and family or heading to London for a long weekend, you’ll be supporting our great businesses, cultural venues and attractions, and helping our city and the country get back on its feet.”