Fewer than one in seven leaders in some of the UK’s biggest companies have said they expect a full-time return to offices by the end of this year, according to a new survey.
Data gathered for office company IWG suggested that firms were much more likely to pursue a hybrid work model in the future, than go back to asking staff to work from a central office five days a week.
The answers came from 501 managers at FTSE 250 companies who were surveyed about their plans for the future.
Some 13% of them predicted a full-time return this year, with 38% saying they would downsize across the board and 42% were looking to move to or invest in a shared office.
It is data that, if proved accurate, would benefit IWG, itself a member of the FTSE 250.
The company has for years been betting on a slow shift towards a more decentralised working model. Over the last two years, almost all of its new sites were opened outside cities and away from major urban areas.
This move has been accelerated by the pandemic, with demand rising by a third for suburban office space and by a fifth for offices in rural areas in recent months.
The survey results showed that 49% of businesses were weighing up whether to move to areas where their workforce typically lived, while 77% of employees said that working closer to home was a must when they next moved jobs.
“This shift also has the potential to transform local economies; in 2019 we forecast that over the next 10 years local economies were set to benefit from £12 billion as a result of the growth in hybrid work patterns,” IWG chief executive Mark Dixon said.
“The pandemic has not only accelerated this trend but likely increased that figure.”
He added: “Employees have realised that hours have been wasted commuting to an office that they don’t need to be in, whilst businesses have seen that a hybrid model not only means happier and more engaged employees, but also significant cost savings.”