Back to the Grind: How Businesses are Embracing the Office in the Face of Adversity

The 2023 Shift: Navigating Commuter Chaos and the Cost-of-Living Crisis

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Key Takeaways:

  • The Office Resurgence: 40% of companies returned to a full-time office schedule in 2023, despite significant public transport challenges.
  • Adapting to Economic Strain: Increased use of public transport and support for local businesses emerged as responses to the cost-of-living crisis.
  • Data-Driven Insights: The Virgin Media O2 Business Movers Index provides a comprehensive look at UK’s evolving work and lifestyle trends using O2 Motion data.


As the dust settles on a tumultuous year, a striking trend has emerged in the corporate landscape. The year 2023 will be remembered as the period of the ‘Great Office Return’, a phenomenon that saw a remarkable 40% of companies reverting back to the traditional five-day office week. This shift occurred against a backdrop of widespread travel disruptions and an escalating cost-of-living crisis, presenting a unique blend of challenges and opportunities for businesses and workers alike.

Understanding the Movers Index

Virgin Media O2 Business, a major player in the UK’s communication sector, released its first full-year Movers Index, offering invaluable insights into these trends. Utilizing O2 Motion’s aggregated and anonymized UK movement data, combined with extensive polling of businesses and consumers, the Movers Index sheds light on the patterns and preferences shaping the UK’s professional and social landscapes.

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Data Privacy and Methodology

It’s crucial to understand the ethical framework guiding the Movers Index. The data insights from O2 Motion never allow for individual identification, adhering to strict privacy guidelines. This methodology ensures a balance between valuable insights and individual privacy.

The Great Office Return: A Closer Look

Despite frequent and lengthy public transport delays, a surprising 52% of workers expressed a preference for office work, with a significant 39% increasing their office presence compared to 2022. This trend was even more pronounced among younger workers, with 47% of 18-24 year-olds favoring the office environment. A key factor in this shift appears to be the mandatory in-office policies adopted by 92% of companies in 2023.

Commuting Costs and Preferences

The financial implications of this return are non-trivial, with annual commuting costs, including lunch and travel, averaging up to £7,540. Interestingly, Wednesday emerged as the most popular office day, with 73% of workers favoring it for their in-office schedules.

Adapting to Economic Strain

The cost-of-living crisis played a significant role in shaping commuter behavior. 50% of Brits cited cost as a primary consideration, leading to a 34% increase in public transport use as an eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative. Despite frustrations like music playing without headphones and loud conversations, Brits showed resilience in their commuting habits.

Evening Social Trends

The data also revealed interesting social behaviors, with a notable increase in evening outings during the brighter months of April, contrasted by a decline during the darker months of October and November.

Supporting Local: A New Shopping Ethos

In a heartening display of community spirit, 70% of Brits showed a preference for supporting small or local businesses, with the willingness to spend an average of 19% more for this cause. This trend was especially strong among the younger generation, highlighting a growing consciousness towards supporting local economies.

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High Street Resurgence

The high street saw a resurgence in popularity, particularly in September, likely driven by back-to-school shopping. Conversely, shopping centers peaked in February but saw a decline during the traditional Christmas shopping period, indicating a shift in consumer behavior.

Industry Insights: Jo Bertram’s Perspective

Jo Bertram, Managing Director of Virgin Media O2 Business, emphasized the resilience and adaptability of Brits and businesses amidst economic pressures. The return to the office, increased public transport usage, and support for local businesses are trends Bertram believes will continue into 2024. She highlights the importance of reliable, accessible insights for businesses to make data-driven decisions in navigating these trends.

The Movers Index: A Resource for Businesses

The Virgin Media O2 Business Movers Index stands as a valuable resource for understanding UK movement insights. Available quarterly, it offers businesses a comprehensive view of evolving trends, aiding in strategic planning and decision-making.


As we embark on 2024, the insights from the Movers Index illuminate the path taken by businesses and consumers in the previous year. The resilience shown in the face of transport challenges and economic pressures reflects a dynamic and adaptable UK workforce and consumer base. With these insights, businesses can better navigate the evolving landscape, embracing the lessons learned in 2023 to forge a prosperous path forward.

About Virgin Media O2

Virgin Media O2, launched in June 2021, represents a powerful fusion of the UK’s most reliable mobile network with top-tier broadband services. This joint venture between Liberty Global and Telefónica SA is dedicated to upgrading the nation’s connectivity, boasting 47 million UK connections across various services.

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