Forty percent of firms expect people to work from the office five days a week

Virgin Media O2 Business’ first full-year Movers Index claims that 2023 was the year of the ‘Great Office Return’Virgin Media O2 Business’ first full-year Movers Index claims that 2023 was the year of the ‘Great Office Return’, with 40 percent of companies returning to a five-day office working week, despite more than half (55 percent) of workers experiencing public transport delays of an hour or more on their commute. The Movers Index claims that businesses and consumers alike are doubling down on getting the most value for every pound spent amid the cost-of-living crisis.

The Movers Index, which first launched a year ago, is based on quarterly barometers combining anonymised and aggregated UK movement data from O2 Motion with national polling findings to reveal key behavioural trends. The combined data paints an what the firm claims is an accurate picture of movement patterns and the trends influencing them.

According to the report, despite lengthy delays and commuting costs (including lunch and travel) of up to £7,540 a year, commuters returned to the office in their droves in 2023, with 52 percent of workers preferring to work in the office and 39 percent going in more frequently than in 2022. This rose to just under half (47 percent) of 18-24 year-olds. A likely driving factor was the finding that 92 percent of companies had some form of mandatory in-office policy in 2023, with four in 10 companies back to five days in the workplace.

Meanwhile, Wednesdays emerged as the preferred office day, cited by nearly three quarters (73 percent) of workers. With Brits increasingly in the office, O2 Motion data showed growth in rail commuting trips rose by 2 percent from Q1 to Q4 of 2023. However, Cardiff (70 percent), Sheffield (61 percent), and Edinburgh (45 percent) experienced the highest commuting growth, whereas London experienced a fall of 9 percent in the amount of people travelling into the city. For commutes across the country, if London is excluded, the growth in 2023 rose by 24 percent.


Acting local

While cost remained the overriding consideration, cited by 50 percent, more than one in three (34 percent) Brits increased their public transport use to minimise their environmental impact. The Index found that it wasn’t all happy travelling though; playing music without headphones was called out by more than half (53 percent) of respondents as the most broken social norm on public transport, followed by overly loud conversations (52 percent) and occupation of extra seats (48 percent).

Despite delays and disruptions, Brits appeared to be more social during the brighter months. As lighter days emerged, O2 Motion data revealed that the biggest rise in evening trips happened in April (9 percent) as people chose to stay out later. In contrast, evening trips fell throughout October (-2 percent) and November (-7 percent) with Brits opting to stay home as the nights drew in.

In 2023, small businesses experienced a needed boost, with the majority of shoppers (70 percent) expressing a desire to support small or local businesses. Shopping on the local high street was important to 64 percent of Brits and shoppers were willing to spend, on average, 19 percent more to support local businesses. This behaviour is being driven by younger generations, as 83 percent of 18-24 year-olds are willing to pay extra.

O2 Motion data shows that September was the most popular month for high streets, with a 6 percent increase in trips likely caused by back-to-school shopping. Meanwhile, shopping centres were most popular in February when they experienced a 4 percent increase in visitors. However, it appears many people opted to do their Christmas shopping in October and November, as there were large dips in visitors to both shopping centres (-16 percent) and high streets (-10 percent) over the Christmas period.