UK encourages workers to return to the office

World

LONDON (AP) — The British government is encouraging workers to return to their offices amid concern that the number of people working from home during the coronavirus pandemic is hurting coffee bars, restaurants and other businesses in city centers.

The government plans to roll out a media campaign next week that will encourage employers to highlight the efforts they’ve made to protect staff from COVID-19.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Friday that this was the right time for many people to return to work because children will be going back to school next week. He also said prolonged isolation from friends and colleagues is taking a toll on mental health.

“For many people’s mental health it is important to return to a safe workplace, so that’s why workplaces are being made COVID secure over the summer, and for a lot of people it will be the right time to return,” Schapps told the BBC. “Others, I accept, will carry on in a much more flexible way than they did in the past.’’

The announcement comes after the Confederation of British Industry warned Thursday that office closures were taking a wider toll on the economy. The organization, which represents 190,000 businesses, also said the government should expand coronavirus testing and highlight the safety of public transportation to encourage people to return to their offices.

“The costs of office closure are becoming clearer by the day. Some of our busiest city centers resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade,” CBI Director General Carolyn Fairbairn said Thursday. “This comes at a high price for local businesses, jobs and communities.”

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