High demand for return to office and calls for workplace reopening roadmap from Government

May 17, 2021

The latest CEO Update to Ibec membership from Danny McCoy


This morning Ibec published a major survey of our membership on expectations for return to workplaces and the urgent need for the delivery of a roadmap from Government setting out timelines and guidance for the lifting of lockdown on offices.  Conducted two weeks ago (early May) and based on 370 responses from businesses across all sectors of the economy, the research found that with the provision of Government guidelines, it is likely that 78% of respondent organisations could be returning to the workplace by September of this year.

  • Over a quarter of respondents (28%) will plan their return to the workplace in line with Government advice and/or the finalisation of the vaccination rollout. 
  • A similar proportion (29%) expect to return in September 2021 and one in five organisations expect to be fully back in the workplace within the next three months (21%). 

This provides the evidence that to reignite collaboration, culture and confidence in their workforce business requires clarity. The Government’s roadmap must be aligned with an ongoing review of reopening timelines that reflects the risk reduction that the vaccine programme is delivering. This means a potential earlier gradual return to workplaces than the previously flagged expected return time of September. As swift a return as possible to office work is also vital in order to preserve the future of the many Experience Economy businesses in our towns and cities that rely on office worker footfall for their survival.

Almost three quarters of companies (74%) say that the use of hybrid working will increase in their organisations over the next 2-3 years.   These findings also signal trends which require increase ambition in the delivery of necessary infrastructure such as remote working hubs, alignment with childcare facilities, and the National Broadband Plan, first and foremost Government must outline to organisations how and when they can begin efforts to gradually return their staff safely to the office. 

The full report, which includes insight on business travel, planned social distancing measures and employers’ expectations about the workplace in the years ahead post-covid, can be found below.

We will use this research as an opportunity to engage with the political system to seek clarity on this next phase of reopening.

Finally, we welcome the inclusion of guidance on Rapid Diagnostic Tests (ADT’s) and Rapid Antigen Diagnostic Tests (RADT’s) in the newly revised Work Safely Protocol.  Antigen testing, properly conducted and appropriately reported, will  be an important additional measure for many organisations to strengthen their COVID-19 measures and will contribute to providing reassurance to workers and customers as businesses re-open.

As always, please do get in touch if you have any feedback.  

Best wishes,

Danny McCoy


Ibec - Returning to the Workplace 2021 survey pdf | 522.5 kb