Workplaces in Chelmsford were quieter during the first week without Covid restrictions than in the previous seven days, data suggests, despite the Government's work from home guidance coming to an end.

Business leaders say the emergence of hybrid working models – encouraging a mix of home and on-site working – could be behind a slight fall in activity in workplaces across England following so-called “Freedom Day” on July 19.

Google uses location data from phones and other personal devices to track trends in people's movement in different parts of their daily lives.

It compares footfall in five areas outside of the home – retail and recreation, supermarkets and pharmacies, parks, public transport and workplaces – to a five week-baseline period recorded before the Covid-19 crisis.

In Chelmsford, average activity in workplaces was 30% below normal levels in the week commencing July 19.

This was down from 25% below during the previous week, when the Government’s instruction to work from home where possible was in place.

Across England, average workplace activity also fell slightly from 24% below normal levels to 26% under.

The lack of change nationally is unsurprising, said the Confederation of British Industry, which conducted a recent survey revealing fewer than one in 20 business leaders were considering returning staff to work entirely from the office.

The majority were thinking of bringing in hybrid models where employees would work from home and in the office, the survey commissioned by the University of Leeds found.

Maxine Bligh, director at the CBI, which represents businesses across the UK, said: “The pandemic has taught employers that, in general, people can do large parts of their job from home without any impact on productivity. There have also been benefits felt for employees in terms of health and wellbeing."

She added that many people are having to self-isolate due to potentially coming into contact with someone who has coronavirus, which could also be impacting workplace activity levels.

The final lifting of restrictions on July 19 saw the end of social distancing and limits on how many people can meet up indoors and outdoors.

Nightclubs were allowed to reopen and large music and sports events can now take place.

Google data for the week ending July 25 in Chelmsford shows:

  • Activity in retail and recreation establishments was 13% below normal levels – up from 16% ​below the week before
  • In supermarkets and grocery stores, it was equal to usual – unchanged from the previous week
  • Activity was 79% above pre-pandemic measurements in parks and public spaces – a rise from 75% above during the previous seven days
  • It was 37% below the baseline on public transport – unchanged from the week before

Across England, retail and recreation saw the biggest boost in activity following Freedom Day, up from 10% below pre-pandemic levels in the week to July 18, to 5% below the following week.

The increase in activity was welcomed by the British Independent Retailers Association.

Andrew Goodacre, chief executive officer, said: "People are still coming to terms with the new guidelines, so any increase in visitors to places where there is retail is good given the tough time businesses have had over the past year.”