South West businesses to swap offices for more remote working post-pandemic

Hybrid working

As the country takes its next step out of lockdown and some companies start to slowly open their doors to employees, new research from leading business and financial adviser Grant Thornton UK LLP finds that just 3% of mid-sized businesses in the South West believe that full time office working will be most effective for their people post-pandemic.

Over a third (39%) of the businesses surveyed believe that a shift towards more remote working, rather than office based, will be most effective.

Of these, 33% believe that a blended approach, with more time spent working remotely than in an office, will be best for their business, while 6% say that full time remote working will be best for them.

A further 22% believe an even split between office and remote working will work best for their people.

Due to the changing ways of working expected post-pandemic, one-in-three businesses (34%) of the businesses surveyed also anticipate that their office or workspace will need to be repurposed.

The past year has resulted in a fundamental shift in many businesses operations, with many having to switch to complete remote working almost overnight. Of the businesses surveyed, 78% have seen an increase in home working over the last year.

While this approach has many benefits for companies, the businesses surveyed who have dealt with increased home working reported a number of key people related concerns. In the South West they were led by the provision of training (60%); managing the work of more junior employees (48%); and loss of culture (42%).  Lack of client-facing time (40%) and reduced productivity (40%) also scored highly.

Many employees have had more flexibility than ever this year in not just where they work but also when, due to the blurring of lines between personal and work routines caused by the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic.

But the research found that there is an emerging expectation gap in how employees want to work going forward, and the plans that mid-market businesses have for the future. Many of the businesses surveyed (43%) believe their employees will expect more flexible working options to continue post-pandemic.

Despite this, 21% do not expect to offer any more flexibility.

Jonathan Riley, practice leader for Grant Thornton in the South West, said: “We do think there’s been a step change in how companies and their people work and the focus now needs to be on how businesses adapt effectively to a hybrid approach. This will include understanding how their work or office space may need repurposing, how their wellbeing and employment policies will need adapting to better support the changing expectations of the workforce.  There are also big questions about how they most effectively provide development and on-the-job learning opportunities, and how technology can be used more effectively to enable new and more disparate ways of working.

“One of the key things businesses have learnt from the pandemic is that proactive engagement with their people is vital. It’s important that businesses continue to engage and listen and use this insight to develop the right solutions. It’s an ongoing conversation and no one has all the right answers yet, but businesses that fail to adapt and listen to the changing requirements of their people run the risk of losing talent to those that do.”