Government to blame for workers’ reluctance over office return, says Sorrell


Marketing supremo Sir Martin Sorrell has slammed the Government’s campaign to get people back to their offices, saying it has “itself to blame” as workers shun public transport over Covid-19 safety fears.

The founder of marketing outfit S4 Capital and former boss of advertising giant WPP told the PA news agency the Government has not done enough to restore confidence that trains and buses are safe to use.

He said there will be no widespread return to city centre offices until the Government tackles worries over coronavirus infection on transport.

Boris Johnson has been looking to get people back into offices amid fears city centres will turn into ghost towns if employees continue to work remotely.

But Sir Martin said the Government has “itself to blame for that”.

He said: “There’s been no campaign to explain why public transport is OK. People don’t want to risk their safety in that way – not everybody can bike or walk to work.

“No wonder why people are lethargic about it.”

The latest figures from the Department for Transport revealed demand for rail services had fallen despite the return to the office push, with UK train journeys still just a third of pre-pandemic levels.

Confidence is likely to be impacted further after the Government last week reintroduced restrictions, banning social gatherings of more than six people.

Sir Martin said it is not essential for people to work from offices given the improvements in technology.

He said: “I don’t share the view that it’s essential for people to come back to the office.”

He said he is “not convinced” in the argument that it causes a loss of culture in firms.

But the CBI business body has warned getting employees back to the office is as important as getting children back to school, while a number of other business leaders claim it is essential to many sectors.

It comes after a raft of technology firms – such as Twitter and Fujitsu – gave staff the option of working remotely permanently, with the likes of Facebook and Microsoft keeping home and flexible working in place into 2021.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs has also joined JPMorgan and City firm Linklaters by allowing staff to work from home part-time and work in the office on a rota basis.