London risks losing its aura as a ‘fun’ place to work, economist fears

Major cities such as London face more economic pain as some companies resist the government’s efforts to encourage workers back to their desks this week, and its discounted meal deal begins.

Pablo Shah, a senior economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), fears that the capital could have lost its aura as a “fun” place to work, particularly in the digital and creative industries.

“We had a management meeting in the office last Tuesday and were able to see what London looks like as the lockdown eases. To be frank, it looked like a ghost town,” Shah said. “London last week did not look very attractive to the talent it needs.”

That could mean more woes for the troubled hospitality sector, just as the government launches its “eat out to help out” discount meal scheme on Monday in an attempt to kickstart the economy out of the deepest slump in centuries.

Since Saturday, employers in England have been allowed to judge whether staff can safely return to offices. But many, including banks, legal firms and tech companies, are taking a cautious approach and are not rushing employees back to their desks – potentially for many weeks or months.

Many of CEBR’s own clients, such as finance firms and insurers, are not going back to offices until next year. It predicts that in 2021, the “new normal” will be 30% of London-based employees still working at home on any one day.

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