• Virgin Media O2 Business has today published its inaugural Annual Movers Index, revealing four in ten companies are back to the office full time, despite widespread travel delays and disruptions
  • With 2023 cementing the cost-of-living crisis, second hand shopping and public transport use surged as Brits sought to save money
  • Using aggregated and anonymised UK movement data collected by O2 Motion based on mobile data and polling of businesses and consumers, the annual Movers Index highlights UK population trends and insights  

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.