Plan B: How did 'work from home' plea impact on the High Street today?

Shoppers hit Ipswich High Street on the Monday November 2nd ahead of the second national lockdown.

As many are told to work from home, would the region's businesses suffer? - Credit: Archant

The Government's Covid Plan B guidance of 'working from home if you can' began on Monday - but what was the impact on town centres?

With theoretically less people at work, and offices emptier than usual, there have been fears the region's high streets could from a lower footfall or lack of business.

But the anecdotal evidence from day one was more positive.

William Coe, from Coes of Ipswich, observed: "I don’t think the work from home restrictions have made a huge difference, the biggest impact is Omicron, as an element of uncertainty.

"In the last two weeks since Omicron has been announced, I would say there’s been a slight, and it is only slight, detrimental impact on footfall.”

John Fender, from Music World, also in Ipswich, saw his business actually increase. He said: "We’ve been super-crazy busy today, I don’t know randomly just with Christmas and everything, people coming in quite specifically to pick up musical instruments.

"It’s been busy, very busy, probably more busy than a normal Monday.

Bury Christmas light celebration showing the Arc shopping centre

While the start to the week for these businesses has been largely unaffected by the new guidance and restrictions, it is yet to be seen if the festive period as a whole will follow the trend. - Credit: Charlotte Bond

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"December is always our strongest month anyway, because of people buying lots of gifts for Christmas for family members, and music seems to be what people are spending time doing.

“I think music has helped a lot of people recently and people are picking up instruments if they’ve got more time they can learn.”

This appeared to be a common theme of the day in the region, as Lizzy Hall, from Loft and Spires, in Bury St Edmunds, added: "We’ve been incredibly busy.

"We have noticed since the lockdowns that lunchtimes are quieter because people who would normally have come in in their lunch breaks are working from home, so I would say it has had an effect in the past, but today we’re just very busy.”   

Many businesses are taking a flexible line on working from home.

People are being advised to work from home where possible, as England moves into Plan B restrictions to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

But the move has been labelled as guidance by the government, rather than a legal requirement.

Mark Robinson, regional coordinating officer for the Unite union, said: “We’re deeply concerned people who do not have the luxury of being able to work from home could be putting themselves at increased risk.”