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Welsh SME’s the Most Likely to Return to the Office

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With restrictions easing and question marks about what the new normal might look like, new research from Hitachi Capital business Finance suggest that Welsh small business bosses are the most likely to be planning a full return to the office in the country by the end of this year, and least likely to consider continuing to work remotely.

The poll of over a thousand owners and decision makers of small businesses found that almost half of those in Wales (49%) are planning a full return to the office – significantly higher than those in other parts of the country such as the North West of England (36%), and the East of England (35%).

While 51% of small businesses in Wales are currently working remotely, the survey found this will drop to 28% by the end of this year, compared with 41% of businesses on average. This is the sharpest fall of anywhere in the UK.

Specifically, 12% of Welsh businesses plan to continue to work from home completely, while a further 16% will arrange a hybrid set up – a mixture of office-based and working remotely.

Asking for the reasons why, a third (35%) of bosses in Wales felt this offered the best work/life balance. They were also more likely than average to say this would offer increased productivity levels (24% vs 20% average), feel that the reputation of the business would be enhanced (24% vs 18%), and it would help build stronger connections with the local community (24% vs 18%).

More broadly, the research found that businesses in the East of England were the least likely to be returning to an office by the end of this year. Almost two-third of businesses in Eastern England (63%) are currently working remotely, which is expected to fall slightly to 52% by the end of this year.

Joanna Morris Head of Insight at Hitachi Capital Business Finance: 

“As a nation, we are preparing to return to work in a capacity that is unrestricted by COVID regulations. How small businesses deal with this region to region. 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 – home working. 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. At Hitachi Capital Business Finance, we believe it is paramount to identify these in order to support small businesses in the best and most appropriate way possible, whilst understanding how they operate, think and feel.”

Where small businesses are operating CURRENTLY

Workplace – Office / factory / on site workplace Outdoors – e.g. gardener, farmer, construction, direct sales etc) Working from home / home office Hybrid working – a mix of office-based work and working from home or another location.
North East 42% 18% 24% 15%
North West 27% 13% 35% 25%
Yorkshire and The Humber 40% 8% 32% 20%
East Midlands 29% 14% 38% 20%
West Midlands 31% 12% 37% 21%
East 27% 10% 45% 18%
London 24% 12% 32% 32%
South East 34% 7% 34% 24%
South West 35% 6% 33% 27%
Wales 31% 18% 29% 22%
Scotland 28% 8% 38% 25%

Where small businesses expect to be operating by the END OF THIS YEAR

Workplace – Office / factory / on site workplace Outdoors – e.g. gardener, farmer, construction, direct sales etc) Working from home / home office Hybrid working – a mix of office-based work and working from home or another location.
North East 45% 21% 24% 9%
North West 36% 23% 17% 24%
Yorkshire and The Humber 40% 15% 25% 20%
East Midlands 41% 17% 18% 24%
West Midlands 45% 25% 19% 12%
East 35% 13% 29% 23%
London 41% 19% 21% 18%
South East 44% 12% 23% 21%
South West 43% 13% 21% 23%
Wales 49% 22% 12% 16%
Scotland 44% 11% 23% 23%

Reasons for returning to the office

National Average Wales
It will be good for my wellbeing and mental health 27% 24%
Better work-life balance 36% 35%
It will be easier to do marketing and business networking 17% 16%
It will help boost productivity levels 22% 24%
It will help team working / a positive dynamic between team members 23% 14%
It will enable us to deliver better client/customer service 23% 18%
We will use technology to become more agile as a business 22% 29%
It will be easier to hire the right people and develop a more diverse workforce 17% 16%
It will be encouraging us to become more green/environmentally friendly 20% 22%
The reputation of the business will be strengthened 18% 24%
It will help us to become more profitable 22% 24%
It will help us build a stronger connection with our local community 18% 24%