Workers will be adopting a permanent agile approach to office life as mid-sized businesses signal a clear shift towards long-term remote working, according to new figures.
The data from accountancy and advisory firm BDO shows that 42 per cent of medium-sized businesses are planning for staff to spend three or more days a week at home as they adapt to a new way of working after the pandemic.
The UK’s mid-tier represents one in four jobs in the UK economy and the findings represent one of the clearest indications so far that the agile ways of working are here to stay.
The data shows that 42 per cent of medium-sized businesses have introduced permanent remote roles with nearly a third (31 per cent) prioritising investment in technology to support staff working remotely.
BDO surveyed leaders from 500 medium-sized businesses across the UK to uncover their plans for reopening workplaces as the UK emerges out of lockdown restrictions.
Many think this shift will support the government’s levelling-up agenda, with almost a third (31 per cent) believing their region will benefit from workers spending more money locally rather than commuting to city centres.
As the country emerges out of lockdown, medium-sized business are optimistic about their recovery prospects, with 70 per cent of businesses saying they are looking to hire permanent or temporary staff in the next six months, and 89 per cent plan to bring their remaining staff back from furlough. In all, almost half (44 per cent) are expecting to return to pre-pandemic revenues within 12 months.
Despite this positivity, some challenges remain. The data states that 37 per cent believe digital connectivity will pose the biggest challenge to growth of their business, pointing to some concerns around remote working. These challenges are more prevalent in the North East and the South West, where almost half of businesses see digital connectivity as their biggest barrier to growth. Over a quarter (28 per cent) believe investment in connectivity should be a priority to give their region a boost.
While businesses are clearly preoccupied with changing work practices, fears about Brexit have not gone away. Over a third (36 per cent) of businesses say that changes in regulation as a result of the new UK/EU trade deal will be the biggest barrier to growth. Inflation fears have started to creep into business planning too with 31 per cent of companies expecting pricing of products and services will need to increase. This is particularly pronounced in the retail sector (37 per cent).
Ed Dwan, partner at BDO, said: “Medium-sized business have shown their agility throughout the pandemic, and their approach to flexible working means this trend looks set to continue. Agile working comes with challenges, but it may be a positive step when it comes to regional levelling up.
“With more than a third of businesses citing access to the right talent in their region as their number one business challenge. More homeworking could benefit the regions that have historically seen many commute to or even move to larger city centres for work.
“While the resilience of medium-sized businesses means their outlook is generally positive, challenges still lie ahead, and managing the impacts of Covid-19 is still a significant business issue for many. The general economic recovery could also lead to higher prices for all of us as inflation creeps higher.”