London, 25th January 2024: Virgin Media O2 Business’ first full-year Movers Index has revealed that 2023 was the year of the Great Office Return, with 40% of companies returning to a five-day office working week, despite more than half (55%) of workers experiencing public transport delays of an hour or more on their commute. The Movers Index reveals 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 accurate picture of movement patterns and the trends influencing them.
Delayed but undeterred: Great Office Return of 2023
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% of workers preferring to work in the office and 39% going in more frequently than in 2022. This rose to just under half (47%) of 18-24 year-olds. A likely driving factor was the finding that 92% 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%) of workers. With Brits increasingly in the office, O2 Motion data showed growth in rail commuting trips rose by 2% from Q1 to Q4 of 2023. However, Cardiff (70%), Sheffield (61%), and Edinburgh (45%) experienced the highest commuting growth, whereas London experienced a fall of 9% 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%.
Cost-cutting travellers tolerate delays and rude riders
While cost remained the overriding consideration, cited by 50%, more than one in three (34%) 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%) of respondents as the most broken social norm on public transport, followed by overly loud conversations (52%) and occupation of extra seats (48%).
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%) as people chose to stay out later. In contrast, evening trips fell throughout October (-2%) and November (-7%) with Brits opting to stay home as the nights drew in.
Shopping local hits new heights in 2023
In 2023, small businesses experienced a needed boost, with the majority of shoppers (70%) expressing a desire to support small or local businesses. Shopping on the local high street was important to 64% of Brits and shoppers were willing to spend, on average, 19% more to support local businesses. This behaviour is being driven by younger generations, as 83% 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% increase in trips likely caused by back-to-school shopping. Meanwhile, shopping centres were most popular in February when they experienced a 4% 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%) and high streets (-10%) over the Christmas period.
Jo Bertram, Managing Director of Virgin Media O2 Business, said: “2023 was marked by pressures from the cost-of-living crisis and inflation, but Brits and businesses adapted, setting trends that are likely to continue in 2024. Our full-year Virgin Media O2 Business Movers Index shows that people defied delays to return to the office in droves, as people rediscovered the benefits of their workplaces and businesses set office day policies. Brits found ways to prioritise their spending and public transport presented a way to get on the move at a lower cost, allowing them to spend more supporting local businesses when they needed it most.
As we kick off a new year, reliable and accessible insights are key to enabling businesses to chart the trends from 2023 and make impactful data-driven decisions for the course ahead.”
The Virgin Media O2 Business Movers Index is a publicly available quarterly report that explores the latest UK movement insights from each quarter. Find out more and access the report here: Virgin Media O2 Business website.
*Data insights from O2 Motion never allow identification or mapping of individuals and operate within strict privacy guidelines. O2 Motion does not capture international visitors in the UK or children.
**Based on commuting to the office five days a week at a per month cost of £628 including expenses like lunch and transportation.
Notes to Editor:
O2 Motion is a service that uses anonymised and aggregated data created by the mobile phone network to offer insight into movement trends across the UK. As mobile devices connect to different masts, they create data footprints which O2 can then anonymise, aggregate, and extrapolate in order to gain a picture of how people are travelling, when they make journeys and which areas they visit.
O2 Motion is based on connection data between a device and the phone mast only. It does not collect GPS data and the service isn’t used for ‘contact tracing’.
Strand Partners’ specialist research team conducted an online survey of 2,000 nationally representative members of the public (by age, gender and NUT1 region) online between 22.12.23 and 27.12.23. All data was then weighted against the latest ONS census. For businesses, 2,000 UK business leaders were surveyed who confirmed that they were currently in senior leadership roles (e.g. CEO, C-suite, director-level) of UK businesses. All data gathered is of a publishable quality and is produced within Market Research Society guidelines. For full data tables and more detail of the methodology, please e-mail: email@example.com.
About Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2 launched on 1 June 2021, combining the UK’s largest and most reliable mobile network with a broadband network offering the fastest widely-available broadband speeds. It is a customer-first organisation that brings a range of connectivity services together in one place with a clear mission: to upgrade the nation. Virgin Media O2 is the corporate brand of the 50:50 joint venture between Liberty Global and Telefónica SA, and one of the UK’s largest businesses.
The company has 47 million UK connections across broadband, mobile, TV and home phone. Its own fixed network currently passes 16.1 million premises alongside a mobile network that covers 99% of the nation’s population with 4G, and more than 1,600 towns and cities with 5G services targeting 50% population coverage in 2023.