The coronavirus pandemic could be the death of the morning and evening rush hours.
the move to remote working for many businesses could become permanent.
Long-lasting social distancing measures could force companies to adopt staggered working hours.
Working from home could quickly become the new norm in some industries.
“The world probably will not go back to how it was before in a whole manner of different ways,” UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday.
The coronavirus pandemic could bring an end to the commuter rush hour as businesses and governments move towards staggered shifts and remote working, according to the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
Shapps told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme on Friday that the international coronavirus lockdown was likely to force a radical reimagining of how the world works.
“The world probably will not go back to how it was before in a whole manner of different ways,” Shapps said.
“It may well be in the future that companies say ‘it’s actually worked very well having some of our staff work from remote locations, why don’t we carry on doing that?'”
Shapps said that businesses would start to question “Actually why does everyone have to get up and travel during the rush hour at a particular time in the morning? Why don’t we have that more distance through the day?”
He said that businesses and governments would likely move permanently towards staggered working hours, with increased home working.
“And there may be different ways… the government responds to spread the load better,” he added.
Shapps’ comments came after the UK’s Chief Scientific Officer signalled that citizens would likely be instructed to work at home even once full lockdown measures had ended.
“So there may be a number of measures that need to continue in order to allow that [infection rate] to be suppressed and controlled whilst vaccines and therapeutics come along,” Sir Patrick Vallance told a Downing Street press conference on Thursday.
He added: “So yes there will be some changes I think that need to take place that have already taken place, around things like home working, that are going to be important to maintain that ability to break transmission.”
Is the coronavirus pandemic the tipping point for home working?
However, figures from the British Chambers of Commerce suggest that more than half of all businesses are now using remote working.
Homeworking has increased particularly in cities, with 29% of Londoners now saying they have started working at home since the pandemic started, having now done so before, according to polling by YouGov.
The shift has been reflected in a collapse in public transport use.
Across the UK train use has fallen by 95% since the crisis began, with motor vehicle use also down 60%, according to official government figures.
While these numbers will obviously significantly rise again once current restrictions are lifted, it is likely that social distancing measures, both compulsory and voluntary, will continue for months, if not years, more to come.
Commuting, which has long been seen as an essential daily activity in the general workforce, for many businesses could increasingly become an activity that is undertaken only when absolutely necessary.
And with a deep recession now likely, many businesses may look to homeworking as a possible means of saving overhead costs while limiting further infection of their workforce.
In short, while the international coronavirus lockdown may have been sold as a temporary measure to get us through this pandemic, some of the radical social and business changes it has triggered could end up becoming permanent.