Rishi Sunak urges businesses to reopen offices and invest in growth

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Living next door to Boris Johnson has not put the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, off the idea of mingling with his colleagues.

In an interview published in The Daily Telegraph and the Sun, the chancellor, who lives above his office at Number 11 Downing Street, called on employers to end working from home and get workers back into the office.

“I’m probably in the camp of saying that it’s good that people are in offices together,” Sunak said.

Sunak believes that staff who are denied the opportunity to slog into the office by their employers will “vote with their feet” and defect to rival firms.

He did concede, however, that there should be some flexibility for those who prefer to work from home.

As well as doing his bit to revive the fortunes of property companies, sandwich bars, bus and rail companies with his call for a return to office life, Sunak urged those companies that have thrived during the pandemic to bump up investment when the lockdowns end.

“If you’ve got the cash, invest it now, because we want you to do it now and help drive our recovery and that will create jobs in the process,” Sunak said.

Westfield Health, a charitable trust that works with companies to help employees cultivate healthy lifestyle habits, said the corporate wellbeing needs to be improved for a successful office return and to cut the cost of mental health absence, which has been calculated at £14bn.

“In order to make the return to work successful, employees need to be reassured that the workplace is safe, and that employers are open to co-creating a new normal. We are not slotting back into the world we left,” said Dave Capper, the chief executive officer of Westfield Health.

“There is now optimism in the air after a year of largely negative news, but reopening alone will not be enough to heal either the mental health impact of Covid on individuals or the economic impact on businesses. To recover, mentally and economically, businesses will need each and every employee to be at their healthy, productive best. That can only happen when wellbeing becomes a boardroom priority that’s seen as a strategic business investment, not an expense,” Capper asserted.

— adds comment from Westfield Health —

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