NW firms signal permanent shift to remote working

New study from accountancy firm BDO reveals a high percentage of businesses in Liverpool city region and across the North West are creating permanent remote working roles. Tony McDonough reports

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Home working will become a permanent feature of many businesses in the North West

 

Up to 60% companies in Liverpool city region and across the North West are planning to create permanent working-from-home roles.

A new survey from accountancy firm BDO reveals a significant shift towards new ways of working as offices start to properly reopen following multiple COVID-19 lockdowns over the past 12 months.

It found almost a third (30%) of businesses in the region are prioritising investment in technology to support more people working remotely in the next six months. And the North West has the highest level of businesses creating permanent remote roles than any other region.

According to the BDO Rethinking the Economy survey of 500 mid-sized businesses, 20% of North West companies intend to adapt their office space, with more than a third (37%) looking to introduce agile or hybrid-working on a permanent basis.

Nearly half admitted that they expect the majority of staff to work from home for at least two days a week once offices reopen. As such, the number one priority for mid-sized businesses is to invest in technology to support more employees working remotely.

More flexible work practices had been discussed widely for a number of years prior to the pandemic but, in reality, most firms were reluctant to go too far down that road and the office remained the norm for the majority of employees.

However, the arrival of COVID-19 and the need to implement restrictions forced many organisations to quickly change how and where their staff worked. There was significant investment in new technology and process to facilitate the shift. With social distancing likely to remain for some time, remote working is to become part of the new normal.

Ed Dwan, partner and head of BDO in the North West, said: “There is clearly a tangible shift towards a more hybrid way of working as companies continue to adapt to the ongoing challenges thrown at them by the pandemic.

Ed Dwan, partner and head of North West at BDO

 

“This is particularly pronounced in traditional North West 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.

“It reported 40% of North West 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 North West businesses are continuing to gather momentum and strengthen revenue streams. More than half (60%) intend to bring back staff after the furlough scheme ends in September, while 45% plan to hire permanent or temporary staff in the next six months.

Mr Dwan added: “With a third of companies expecting to return to pre-COVID-19 revenues within the next 12 months, there is a clear desire to put in place strong foundations on which to build more resilient businesses.”

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