Back to the office? It depends where you live 

If you are one of those for whom the work-from-home revolution has come as a welcome change, the chances are you live in Scotland

Small businesses there have been found to be the least likely to return to the office, while Welsh businesses the most likely. And for London – it’s evenly split as a survey found businesses there were as likely to be planning remote working as they are to return to an office.

Despite an impetus to return to normal, the legacy of home and hybrid working will linger on well into next year with less than one in two returning to a traditional office by December, according to Hitachi Capital Business Finance which spoke to 1,464 small business owners.

The research revealed significant regional variations, with some favouring the more cautious and familiar approach of home or hybrid whilst others were eager to return to pre-pandemic bustling offices. This is what they found:

Scotland currently tops the nation with the highest percentage of people either home or hybrid working (63% vs 58% national average). Whilst this figure is due to fall quite significantly by the end of this year (46%), it is still true to say that there will remain more small business employees sticking to the new methods of working that emerged as a consequence of the pandemic than those returning to the office.

Going against the grain, Wales beats other locations as the region most keen to return to the office, with nearly half of their workers planning to revert to pre-pandemic work habits (49% vs 42%).

many intend to get the best of both worlds by trialing a hybrid approach, allowing employees to harness the lessons learnt over the past year

Around a third of small businesses in Eastern England (35%) are planning a full return. In terms of remote working, whilst 63% of small businesses in the East currently favour this method, this will drop to just 52% by the end of this year (versus 41% national average).

London, as the business centre of the UK, revealed some interesting data, with only two fifths of workers planning to return to an office by the end of this year. Regardless of the fact that there was a big increase in people returning to the workplace from now until December (24% to 41%), it goes to show the impact that the pandemic has had on businesses, with the amount of people planning remote or hybrid almost matching the traditional office figure (39% vs 41%).

And, despite hybrid working revealing itself as a popular option for many regions, the North East seem to have a preference for the other three methods – and, this will not change as we approach the end of the year and the end of the pandemic, with these percentages remaining relatively unchanged. This is against the grain of the nation at large, suggesting hybrid is not something that people have settled into.

Joanna Morris, Head of Insight, said: “Whilst some may be ready and eager to return to a bustling workplace setting, others may feel more comfortable and settled sticking with an approach that they have become accustomed to over the past year.

“It seems evident that many intend to get the best of both worlds by trialling a hybrid approach, allowing employees to harness the lessons learnt over the past year whilst also reconnecting with pre-pandemic working.

“It is important to never underestimate the impact these events can have on our small business community, and the nuances that exist between different locations in the UK.”

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