Flexible working will remain once Covid-19 pandemic is over, say UK chiefs

UK business leaders expect remote working to continue, even after lockdown and restrictions are lifted, according to a new survey

by Patrick Sullivan, Political Editor on 26 August 2020 15:14

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Over three quarter of UK CEOs say they believe the move towards remote working will endure, the results of a new survey show as companies continue to look at when to bring staff back to offices. PwC surveyed 699 bosses online in 67 countries/regions (including 96 bosses in the UK) in the months of June and July.

PWC was examining how business leaders have responded to the pandemic.

The results showed 86% of UK bosses see a long-term shift towards remote working enduring, and 68% believe the shift towards lower-density workplaces, with fewer people working together in person, will endure.

PwC stated that conversations with UK chief executives also suggest that a new hybrid model is emerging with work being ‘something people do rather than a place to go to’. One in four (24%) said they are already prioritising digital adoption as well as making their workforces more flexible and smaller.

Simon Hampton, PwC’s UK real assets leader said that latest survey findings suggest that the consequences of home working are starting to fundamentally filter into long term thinking about existing office accommodation models. Hampton stated: “Prior to the pandemic, we were already noticing a significant shift in the way people choose to consume - physical retail assets versus online, served via logistics warehousing for example - but with lockdown this home delivery trend has swiftly accelerated into food and perishable items with a new, often more elderly, buyer group joining the younger, tech-savvy generation."

He added: “When you look at these retail shifts in tandem with our UK CEO responses - and in light of the world-wide test case for digital transformation and home working - it would be short-sighted of us to think it won’t result in different looking town centres and suburban areas in future. And this is certain to have larger real asset implications for the built environment with developers and investors needing to navigate this changing landscape.” Numerous office-based staff have been working from home since the Covid-19 lockdown started in March.

Sridhar Iyengar, Europe MD, Zoho said, “The Covid-19 crisis has caused severe disruption for businesses and workers, but has also forced through long-overdue digital transformation initiatives. The findings of this survey indicate that CEOs and business leaders recognise that increased remote working will endure, even after the pandemic has officially ended, making it vital for companies to modernise and improve their IT operations to adapt to this new digital environment.

“For many employees, the benefits of reducing commuting costs, cheaper accommodation in the suburbs and spending more time with the family are now top priorities. Employers must therefore increase their IT capabilities to recruit and retain top talent as well as introducing new collaboration tools to ensure dispersed team members are working in tandem. Key to this is ensuring the right applications are in place to manage HR issues, payroll and project management, so that the business can operate effectively whilst increasing productivity.

He concluded, “Data security is also vital, especially when employees are working outside of office network. IT teams must ensure they have tools in place to manage the access privileges and remote devices like laptops and office phones for security or any critical patch updates.”

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