Matthew Lynn Matthew Lynn

Working from home is the new British disease

(Photo: iStock)

Over mighty trade unions. Short-termist management that prioritises profits over investment. And an education system that doesn’t produce enough scientists or engineers. There have been many different versions of the ‘British disease’ over the years to explain the consistent under-performance of our economy compared to some of our main rivals. But right now there is a new one: the British don’t want to go back to the office – and that is hitting output hard. 

According to a survey by the consultancy AWA published this week, the British are more reluctant to go back to the office than workers in almost any other major developed country. Even as bosses plead with them to go back in, the average office worker in this country is only showing up at their office 1.6 days a week, an attendance rate of 32 per cent, compared with 55 per cent in the European Union, 43 per cent in Latin America, and 36 per cent across the Asia-Pacific region (although in fairness supposed hard-working Americans are pretty reluctant to go back as well). 

It is not hard to understand why. Commuting in the UK is expensive and time consuming compared with most other countries. And most of us have plenty to be getting on with that is more fulfilling than catching up on the gossip around the water cooler or sitting through a tedious meeting with our colleagues. Another survey last week found that people were napping, trying their hand at some DIY, and having sex, or possibly some combination of all three, while they were meant to be ‘working from home’. 

The trouble is, that is terrible for the economy.

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