Survey suggests London small businesses expect more staff to work from home

Survey suggests London small businesses expect more staff to work from home

The London Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) has today released a Savanta ComRes survey of over 500 London businesses providing insights into their plans for staff working from home after Covid-19 restrictions are fully ended.

A headline finding is that 83 per cent of those able to operate with staff working from home say they “expect staff to do so at least one day a week” and 46 per cent in that position expect staff do do so four or five days a week. The word “expect” in this context is a reflection of what those companies are planning for.

Those are quite dramatic numbers, though a lot of the companies in question already had significant amounts of home working going on before the pandemic. Perhaps the extent of change being brought about by the virus is more fully revealed by looking at what businesses that were primarily office-based before Covid anticipate their near-future will be like.

The survey included 176 London businesses which defined themselves as having been primarily office-based pre-virus, of which 150 said that staff working from home is an option for them. Looking ahead a post-Covid “new normal”:

  • Nine per cent said they expect their staff to work from home one day a week.
  • Twenty per cent said two days a week.
  • Twenty per cent said three days a week.
  • Eleven per cent said four days a week.
  • Eighteen per cent said five days a week.

Of the rest, 12 per cent said they didn’t know and 10 per cent said there would be no staff working from home during the week under normal circumstances.

It isn’t a very big sample size, but even so it is striking that almost one in five businesses that had previously been primarily office-based are now effectively saying they plan to enter the post-Covid era with no office space at all. So too is almost half of them saying they expect staff to come into an office less than two days a week.

The survey also found that so-called “micro companies” – those employing ten or fewer people – are far more likely to make more use of remote working after the pandemic and therefore also those more likely to be anticipating greater home working. Basically, we seem to be seeing a significant proportion of businesses deciding they can function with less office space than before and even none of it.

It need not necessarily follow that a lot of London office space is set to fall empty, because it cannot be assumed that other companies won’t want it and that it might be become more adaptable to meet new patterns of demand. But it does seem to indicate that “hybrid” workplace culture customs are evolving.

LCCI chief executive Richard Burge observes:

“The high percentages of businesses that are able to work from home continuing to do so in some form will raise eyebrows, but arguably what’s most interesting from this data is the percentages of businesses who were primarily office-based pre-pandemic that are now expecting their staff to work remotely for varying proportions of the week, including all of it in some cases. We also learn that around half of the businesses we spoke to, for whom it is applicable, are either considering using, or already use, co-working spaces.”

His conclusion?

“The pandemic will deliver a remote working legacy in London.”

For its full survey, Savanta ComRes interviewed 520 London business leaders online between 28 April and 6 June 2021.

Image from Rightmove.

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