Those with the best views see everything. Andrea Rossi, the chief executive of global investment manager M&G, has a corner office on the 11th floor of the firm’s Fenchurch Avenue HQ. From here he can see the inactivity at street level at the end of the week. “I get a bit frustrated when I come in on a Friday, because the whole City, it’s empty,” he says, disappointedly.
He certainly isn’t the only one in London to feel this way. Speak to any shopkeeper, retailer, or news-seller, or anyone in the hospitality industry, and they will tell you the same. London feels like it is on its way back: commuter patterns are up, West End footfall is up, and tourists are beginning to feel as ubiquitous as they were pre-Covid.
But there is still a bewildering lack of urgency among employers regarding full time in-office working. Many companies still only expect their staff to come to work three days a week — usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — making a mockery of the working week.
“It’s ridiculous,” says the managing director of one of the many private members’ clubs in Soho. “Tuesdays to Thursdays are back to where they ought to be, with people cramming the bars and restaurants, but Fridays are still quieter than they ought to be, while Mondays are a real problem. People have got used to working from home and they don’t want to come back to work.”
The threat of litigation still plays into firms’ hesitancy, as does the idea that working from home can save a company money
Indeed. While some banks like Goldman Sachs are encouraging their teams to work five days a week in the office, others are still rather timid. The threat of litigation still plays into this hesitancy, as does the idea that working from home can save a company money, and burnish their cool credentials. Many employees now expect it, and actually have no interest in being desk bound all week, regardless of what sector they work in.
Me, I’ve had enough. The Evening Standard offices are in Finsbury Square, near Liverpool Street, and Monday to Thursday the area is buzzing. From 7am to 8pm, the place is full of people rushing to work, rushing home, and rushing to pubs and bars to fortify themselves in between.
Come Friday, it’s like a bomb has dropped
Come Friday, it’s like a bomb has dropped, with deserted streets around Moorgate, empty shops in Broadgate, the surrounding restaurants all starved of trade. And it has got to stop. Remote working is killing London. It’s killing trade, killing commerce, and killing the city’s ability to properly get back to work.
Come on, hurry up.
Dylan Jones is the Editor-In-Chief of the Evening Standard