Canary Wharf Landlord Laments Slow Pace of Return to the Office

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The main landlord in London’s Canary Wharf financial district is getting frustrated with the slow pace of the U.K.’s return to the office.

Companies are struggling to bring their employees back because the government’s inconsistent messages on coronavirus safety make the daily commute look more dangerous than an international flight, according to Shobi Khan, chief executive officer of Canary Wharf Group.

“There’s no problem going to Spain, Italy or France, but heaven forbid you go to the office,” Khan said on Thursday during an event on the future of work in London’s financial districts. “That’s an oxymoron.”

The government still recommends that everyone who can work from home should do so. Those who have to go into the office are told that before taking public transportation, they should consider all other options. Meanwhile, the government is now encouraging people to go to pubs and eat in restaurants, and is easing restrictions on travel abroad.

Khan said most companies can survive when their employees are working from home, but to thrive, they need people back in the office where they can interact.

“Great companies have a great culture,” he said at the virtual event run by City & Financial Global. “How can you have culture at a company when everyone is on a Zoom call?”

And to get people back to the office, the government needs to remove the confusion about what’s safe when it comes to transportation.

“People are not worried about going back to the office,” Khan said. “They’re worried about how they’re going to get there.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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