Small businesses say home and hybrid working has more benefits than a return to the workplace

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The Government may be encouraging people to return to work, but new research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance reveals that big and small businesses are moving in opposite directions, with smaller enterprises opting to stay at home and seeing more business benefits in home and hybrid working models going forward.

New research conducted the week that Covid restrictions ended reveals that 58% of people that work for large companies are preparing for a return to the workplace, whilst small businesses are twice as likely than their bigger counterparts to continue working from home (27% versus 14%) – with just two in five (41%) returning to the workplace.

A second Hitachi Capital survey, focusing just on small business owners reveals that those currently home-working or adopting hybrid working were more likely to see tangible business benefits, compared to those returning to the workplace.

The benefits of home working

Small businesses whose staff are currently homeworking are most likely to cite the benefits of a better work-life balance (52%) and to say homeworking has been good for the mental health and wellbeing of their people (33%). These enterprises also reflected on having been most able to work in a Covid-secure way (44%).

The perceived benefits of homeworking also extended beyond wellbeing considerations.  These small businesses are most likely to say they have used technology to help their enterprises to become more agile (33%) and they are the are most likely to say their work environment has boosted their productivity levels (20%).

The benefits of hybrid working

Small businesses that have adopted the half-way house between home and office working – evolving into hybrid arrangements – are those most likely to mention six key business benefits, many of which relate much-missed human interaction.

Small businesses adopting hybrid working are most likely to say it has:

  • helped team working, fostering a positive dynamic between team members (24%);
  • improved the effectiveness of their business networking (20%);
  • been easier to hire the right people and develop a more diverse workforce (17%).

Small business owners committing to hybrid working are also those most likely to say their work environment has helped them to build a stronger connection with their local community (25%). Further, having some form of physical base has strengthened the reputation of their business (16%), yet the reduction in overheads has also helped them to become more profitable (18%).

The benefit of office working 

Despite the wide-ranging industry advocacy for people to return to work after ‘Freedom Day,’ there was only seen to be one clear advantage from a return to the pre-Covid workplace. Small business owners returning to the traditional workplace were most likely to say the return would help them to deliver better customer service (20%).

Joanna Morris Head of Insight at Hitachi Capital Business Finance commented: “It is clear from our research that there is no single business response to the end of Covid restrictions and there is a notable variance between the plans of big and small businesses. Many smaller enterprises have been forced to adapt during the lockdown era and, for many, the positive outcomes will inform business planning going forward. For some, technology has helped small businesses to become agile, digitised enterprises – whilst for others, the cost savings from rents and fixed overheads has been liberating and transformed cashflow. These innovations can help some enterprises achieve tangible competitive advantage.

“In short, there will be no single response to restrictions ending and there will be no ‘average’ small business. The diversity between enterprises that work from an office, from home or opt for a new hybrid arrangement will become a permanent feature of the small business landscape going forward. Unaverage will become the new average and the task for those that support the sector is to adapt and respond.”