The government is poised to introduce flexible rail tickets in the Budget this week, according to news reports.
Last year Facilitate reported that the government was working with industry to examine how it can help make sure that part-time and flexible commuters are provided with better value and more convenient options after the Covid-19 pandemic meant more and more workers were working from home.
A survey also from last year by independent watchdog Transport Focus, showed that of those who commuted by train before the pandemic about two in three expect to continue to work from home more often in the future.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce the details in his Budget on Wednesday.
Raj Krishnamurthy, CEO at Freespace, a workplace technology firm, said: “This is a positive and necessary move and demonstrates the need for employers to now accept that flexible seating in offices will become the norm. The hybrid working model is forcing a change in use of a very important resource which is our national railway infrastructure.
“However, this new model is similarly forcing a change in what has historically been a significantly large cost for businesses: their corporate real estate. In addition to making workplaces flexible as we return to work, businesses are likely to use this opportunity to explore satellite offices, which means their staff have easy reach of a workplace without a potentially long, daily commute.
“Employees, on the other hand, will have multiple choices and will need to schedule their plans to be in different places according to the nature of work they do and the people they work with. Workplace technology such as mobile applications, digital signage and anonymous workplace sensors are now a key tool in helping employees and employers achieve the final optimal outcome. This dynamic form of scheduling and the anonymous data will allow organisations to better understand how well their space is being used and when, which will let them reshape how their building is used.”
Andrew Mawson, the founder of Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), said: “Rishi Sunak has a dilemma. Presenting probably the most important Budget in recent memory, the chancellor is under massive pressure to provide ways of stimulating an economy ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“What the lockdown has taught us is that a large proportion of workers do not have to shlep into an office every day to do their work effectively. People can be just as efficient, if not more so, working wholly or partly from home. This has a massive potential benefit not only in wellbeing and work/life balance but also for the environment, reducing unnecessary commuting journeys and the need for big offices that need heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. Instead of the rumoured ‘back to work’ incentive to reopen offices, how about a grant for people to have better tech at home? And instead of ploughing multiple billions into rail and roads (I’d say cancel HS2 but it’s probably too late), spend it on ensuring everyone has decent broadband, stealing a policy that the Labour Party was derided for suggesting?”
Mawson also suggested that to deal with the impact of people not going into the centre of towns for work, and the problems of high streets with empty shops, the government should support the conversion of empty offices and shops into either homes or into local work hubs that businesses can use if people need to work together, rather than having to commute into a central office.
He said: “This could bring back the buzz of city centres and high streets, so helping the hard-hit hospitality industry.”