1000s of businesses all across the UK have begun preparing for their their employees to return back to the office, whether that is under the same working patterns as before COVID, or for some people, a more flexible way of working that include some Working From Home.
The pandemic has pushed much of the UKs workforce into working from the confines of their homes through certain periods of the pandemic. Companies and workers have found new ways to evolve and function away from the daily commute and familiar office space.
This may suggest that office culture could very look different after the pandemic, but just how will this affect public transport and in particular the taxi booking industry?
It is looking more and more likely that workers will be offered more freedom in where they choose to work. It is, however, unlikely that the vast majority of workers will completely leave the office environment altogether, with a more flexible approach to WFH and WFO (Work From Office) favoured by both employer and employee.
Whilst the pandemic has proven that WFH can work well, it has also indicated the downsides too.
Howey Dawber, Strategy Head at Canary Wharf Group, recently told the BBC that people still wish to split their time between home and the workplace.
Throughout the pandemic, the Canary Wharf financial district , which is situated in East London, only had approximately 6% of it’s staff in its buildings, in comparison to 100,000 pre-COVID. Whilst talking on the BBC’s Today programme, Dawber states that people will be keen to get back into the office, especially after so long away from their workmates.
Howey stated: “We have got to the stage where there is a great deal of tiredness.”
He then went on to add: “The first few months of last years working at home, when the sun was gloriously shining and people were really enjoying a more flexible working environment, there was a real sense that this was only ever going to be a short-term deal.
Rishi Sunak also supports the need to get people back into the office.
He told the Telegraph that workers may potentially ‘vote with their feet’ and contemplate moving to a rival company if WFH was made 100% full-time.
Sunak stated: “You cannot beat the spontaneous side, the team building, the work culture that you are able to create in a company or organisation from people spending actual physical time together.”
The Chancellor also discussed how critical the office environment is for young workers who look to understand how firms work and then develop within the company.
Taking all of this into account, it is the traditional 5-days a week of commuting that is under particular threat and not the as-and-when flexible mobility that the taxi industry caters for. Trains, buses and underground companies will all be troubled over whether their customers, who spend 1000s of pounds on season tickets, will still need to pay out the huge outlay.
If the regular income of annual season tickets reduces, you can expect public transport operators to change the pricing on daily tickets to try to cover the revenue they will lose.
There is a very strong opinion that work commuters will instead use more personal and safer modes of mobility on the days that they do in fact travel to their workplaces. With more disposable income each month, saved from their season ticket travel, taxis are very well placed to take advantage.
Mariusz Zabrocki, UK Manager at FREE NOW, stated: “I expect more people to move away from buses, tube and rail and increasingly select more personal ways of travelling, apart from taxis and PHV, that could be e-scooters and bikes for example.
“On balance, the industry is likely to return to pre-Covid levels before the end of the year, with taxis recovering much stronger than PHV due to more personal space and believed safety. Over the past 12 months on the FREE NOW platform, taxis have been recovering far stronger than PHV when lockdowns were lifted again and its share in our business have substantially risen.”
Juraj Atlas, Mileus CEO, recently said: “This shift in working patterns will develop a unique opportunity for the taxi industry as a whole, one that can take a real advantage of the newly found discretionary income of these workers. This should already create more demand for taxi services as we know them.”
“This brand-new pattern will bring forth a decreased commute demand, compared to pre-pandemic times as many occupations, especially knowledge workers, will begin splitting their workweek between WFH for some days and then commuting to their work location for a day or 2 each week.
“Commuting costs will decrease as a direct result, in line with the travel needs of knowledge workers, now only commuting 1 to 3 times a week rather than the previous 5 times a week.”
It seems post-lockdown will be an opportunity for the taxi industry to quickly recover, with changes to peoples working habits and mobility in an area with fantastic potential to be seized.