It’s nearly two years since the prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced the first national Covid lockdown and, for many Britons, life feels close to normal.
As of Thursday, there are no longer any restrictions in England – no legal requirement to wear masks or to self-isolate after a positive Covid test. But have our lives changed in other ways that will outlive the pandemic? Have our habits changed for good?
Working from home
The pandemic has given us a new shorthand: WFH. And it’s here to stay, with one-third of people still working from home at least some of the time. Many companies are now planning to introduce a hybrid model that combines days in the office with time spent working at home.
The government’s guidance that Britons should work from home where possible was scrapped in January after a few false starts. But not everyone is in a rush back to conversations around the water cooler.
People in the UK are still spending more time at home and less time in offices, according to data from Google’s community mobility reports.
There has been some recovery in footfall at stations and workplaces since the first lockdown. However, the latest figures for the week to 11 February 2022 show that activity still remains 29% and 21% below pre-pandemic levels.
ONS data shows that around a third of working adults did their jobs from home in 2022. That figure fell from 36% at the end of January to 31% in mid-February, suggesting that some employers are encouraging their employees to return to the office.
Many employers plan to implement a hybrid model in future to respond to their employees’ demands for more flexible schedules following the pandemic. Daniel Wheatley, a researcher specialising in work-life balance at Birmingham University, thinks this is a good idea, since workers benefit from extra personal time and employers from improved morale and retention.
But he said this would only work in the long term if employers redesign jobs,…