UK mid-tier plans for staff to halve time spent in the office in favour of remote working

01 June 2021

  • As employers roll out new agile working models, medium-sized businesses expect staff to spend half the week working from home 
  • Businesses are optimistic about their recovery, with nearly half expecting to return to pre-pandemic revenues within 12 months
  • But concerns remain about the challenges ahead, including digital connectivity and Brexit 

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 released today.

According to the data from accountancy and advisory firm, BDO, 42% 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 is here to stay. 

42% of medium-sized businesses have introduced permanent remote roles with nearly a third (31%) 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%) 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. 70% of businesses say they are looking to hire permanent or temporary staff in the next six months, and 89% plan to bring their remaining staff back from furlough. In all, almost half (44%) are expecting to return to pre-pandemic revenues within 12 months.

Despite this positivity, some challenges remain. 37% 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%) believe investment in connectivity should be a priority to give their region a boost. 

While businesses are clearly pre-occupied with changing work practices, fears around Brexit have not gone away. Over a third (36%) 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% of companies expecting pricing of products and services will need to increase. This is particularly pronounced in the retail sector (37%).

Reflecting on the findings Ed Dwan, Partner at BDO, commented: 

“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.”

ENDS

Note to editors

Methodology

Bimonthly survey of 500 medium-sized businesses. Medium sized businesses are defined as businesses with revenue between £10-£300m. The survey was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of BDO in March 2021. 

BDO LLP
Accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP provides integrated advice and solutions to help businesses navigate a changing world. 

Our clients are Britain’s economic engine – ambitious, entrepreneurially-spirited and high-growth businesses that fuel the economy.  

We share our clients’ ambitions and their entrepreneurial mind-set. We have the right combination of global reach, integrity and expertise to help them succeed.  

BDO LLP operates in 18 offices across the UK, employing 6,000 people offering tax, audit and assurance, and a range of advisory services. BDO LLP is the UK member firm of the BDO international network.

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The BDO global network provides business advisory services in 167 countries, with 91,000 people working out of 1,658 offices worldwide. It has revenues of $10.3bn.  

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Tom James / Francesca Bliss On behalf of BDO LLP
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