Businesses plan major shift towards new ways of working, as offices prepare to reopen

Homeworking

More than a third of Midlands businesses (35 per cent) plan to create permanent remote roles, as companies make a major shift towards new ways of working.

Read our report on the future of offices on pages 84-88 in our May issue, out now.

According to the latest BDO LLP Rethinking the Economy survey of 500 mid-sized businesses, 20% of Midlands companies intend to adapt their office space, with more than half (55%) looking to introduce agile or hybrid working on a permanent basis. A third admitted that they expect the majority of staff to work from home for at least two days a week once offices reopen. As such, one of the main priorities for mid-sized businesses is to invest in technology to support more employees working remotely.

Tim Foster, partner at BDO LLP in the Midlands, said: “It’s clear that agile, or hybrid working will take precedence in the regional workplace over the coming months, as companies continue to respond and react to the valuable lessons of 2020. This is particularly pronounced in traditional Midlands sectors, such as manufacturing, where there is a real step change in approach.

“Interestingly, remote working will be the biggest driver in boosting economic recovery, according to the survey, with 30% of Midlands businesses saying that the region will benefit from workers spending more money locally in towns, suburbs and rural economies, rather than commuting into city centres. Of course, this will impact the health of some city centre businesses which rely on footfall, but we are starting to see places rethink the way they will attract people into our cities to enjoy the cultural, hospitality and leisure offering.”

The report also showed that Midlands businesses are continuing to gather momentum and strengthen revenue streams. The majority plan to hire permanent or temporary staff in the next six months, with nearly half intending to bring back staff after the furlough scheme ends in September.

Tim added: “There’s little doubt that the region still faces challenges posed by the pandemic, with nearly half of companies (43%) expecting to return to pre-COVID-19 revenues in one to three years – the lowest rate of recovery across all the UK regions.

“However, there is a clear desire to put in place strong foundations on which to build more resilient businesses, while attempting to address other concerns, such as dealing with a reduction in productivity as a result of remote working, and the ongoing issue of finding the right talent to meet the number of open roles in regional businesses. It’s precisely employment that will help feed into improving living standards across the region – something that defines ‘levelling up’ for Midlands business leaders.”