May 14th 2022
Boris Johnson has said he wants to get people millions of workers back to the office because he does not think working from home works.
The prime minister has taken a swipe at working from home culture saying he ‘believes in the workplace environment’.
He has claimed people are ‘more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas’ when surrounded by colleagues’ and full offices help revive town centres.
Giving an insight into his own productivity levels while working from home Mr Johnson said it involved a lot of ‘walking very slowly to the fridge’ and ‘forgetting’ what you were supposed to be doing.
Speaking to the Daily Mail the prime minister said he believed technology such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams was being used as ‘an excuse for people to stay at home’.
‘My experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office.
‘There will be lots of people who disagree with me, but I believe people are more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas, when they are surrounded by other people,’ he said.
Whitehall officials have recently been locked in a battle with ministers over working from home.
Thousands of government workers are currently required to go into the office for just two or three days a week.
Ministers are pushing for this to increase but unions are mounting strong resistance to a full return.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case is expected to launch a major push on the issue in the coming weeks, amid concerns that failure to return to the office will damage long-term productivity.
Members of the FDA union, which represents senior civil servants, this week said work was ‘no longer a place’ and urged ministers to drop ‘indiscriminate demands … for civil servants to return to office-based working’.
But Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has also pushed for officials to return to the office, has warned that calls from unions could lead to employers ‘offshoring’ their staff.
The Brexit opportunities minister told LBC Radio: ‘It’s a very privileged thing to say – for people in manufacturing, work is a place, for people cleaning work is a place, for security work is a place, for millions of people across this country work is a place.
‘The idea that civil servants should swan off abroad to do their job is slightly giving the game away, that this isn’t about efficiency, this is about lifestyle.’
The battle over whether officials should return to the office comes as the prime minister revealed plans to cut 90,000 civil service jobs to free up cash for measures to ease the cost-of-living crisis.
Unions reacted to the revelation with fury, with one leader warning that national strike action was ‘very much on the table’.
‘We have got to cut the cost of Government to reduce the cost of living’, the prime minister told the Daily Mail.
He suggested the billions saved could be used for tax cuts, saying: ‘Every pound the Government pre-empts from the taxpayer is money they can spend on their own priorities, on their own lives.’
Sources did not deny that the sweeping cut to public jobs could be used for future tax cuts.
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