Returning to the office and living with Covid - the time is now

Ian Mean
Director of Business West Gloucestershire | Business West
28th March 2022

So, what is the “New Normal” with business after two years shrouded by Covid?

Many businesses have faced a real battle to survive, and have made big decisions over recruitment.

Normal for many firms and public sector organisations has been a mixture of home working predominantly and less time in the office every week.

The priority, of course, has been the need for companies to look after their employees with a duty of care.

Absolutely right.

But my personal view is that we must now learn to live with Covid far more—despite a recent surge in cases in this region among older workers.

I believe that long term learning and personal development is not engendered by Zoom or Teams calls.

However experienced you are, my view is that learning comes from ideas and discussions that are not hindered by who has the loudest voice on Zoom.

That doesn’t mean we should have a blanket resolution that everybody must return to their desks, but it surely must become the norm now?

I do find it mindblowing that, according to Chris Smyth, Whitehall Editor of the Times, two thirds of desks remain empty in some government departments in Whitehall.

In fact, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new minister for government efficiency is demanding a clear message from Cabinet colleagues that civil servants should be back at their desks.

I agree with him and it’s ironic the Prime Minister has consistently repeated this message about getting back to their desks

Companies have to decide what the “New Normal” is for their daily business working to ensure they take into account Covid, its aftermath and general wellbeing of employees.

It is clear that Covid has been a wake-up call to some companies who may not have really valued their employees to the full.

Recruitment of good people is now perhaps the biggest challenge facing our companies in Gloucestershire.

Jute Blackmon, GFirstLEP’s analyst, reports that jobs vacant in the county are now around 16 140, a monthly increase of around 1400 job postings.

The challenge therefore for business, is to be an attractive employer.

*Ian Mean is vice-chair of GFirstLEP


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