More employees now commuting than at any stage of pandemic

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Nearly two thirds of working adults have returned to commuting to work, according to latest government figures, although many are only doing so part-time.

Against a backdrop of fears over a new UK lockdown, the Office for National Statistics revealed in its latest Coronavirus and the Latest Indicators for the UK Economy and Society report that 62% of working adults had commuted to work last week. The proportion working from home remained at 20% for the second consecutive week.

This was the first time that the proportion of working adults travelling to work had risen above 60% since the weekly survey began in early April.

Although the proportion of people travelling to work had increased, the ONS found that 10% of the workforce remained on furlough leave.

It added that 20% of people continued to work exclusively from home and its Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey revealed that 11% of businesses were at a moderate or severe risk of insolvency. Half of businesses (48%) said they were at low risk, 30% said they were at no risk and 11% were not sure about their risk of insolvency.

The commuter data included people who may be travelling to work exclusively, or who are doing a mixture of commuting and working from home, the ONS said.

Road traffic, a rough indicator of economic activity, was still below February levels but was trending upward the report found.

Despite momentum building towards returning to offices, new research released on Thursday by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests that working from home could be a permanent fixture for many, following the pandemic. The apparent discrepancy can be explained by the fact that the ONS recorded individual trips to the office, so people could still be working at home most of the time.

According to the CIPD survey of 1,000 employers, 37% think staff will regularly avoid the journey into the office following Covid-19 – up from just 18% before the pandemic.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said: “The step-change shift to home working to adapt to lockdowns has taught us all a lot about how we can be flexible in ways of working in the future.

“Employers have learnt that, if supported and managed properly, home working can be as productive and innovative as office working and we can give more opportunity for people to benefit from better work-life balance.”

However, he said it did not suit everyone and that organisations would have to design working arrangements around people’s needs while “also meeting the needs of the business”.

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