More than 63% of local businesses that can offer flexible working for staff will continue to do so even once lockdown restrictions ease – with a third of those not planning to require staff to return to the office on a regular basis.
According to a survey of local firms by Somerset Chamber of Commerce, 31% of the firms planning to allow staff to continue working from home would not require them to be in the office from week-to-week, while the remaining respondents said they would offer a blended weekly approach of office and home working.
Just over 20% were not offering home working, while the remainder of the respondents were undecided.
Those planning to offer working from home and complete flexi-working said they believed it helped them to retain staff, increased productivity and also reduced the carbon footprint of the business. Only 17% said they planned to reduce their office space as a result.
Companies in the transport and manufacturing sectors were the least likely to be able to offer flexible working while those working in the marketing and public relations sectors and the professional services were the most likely to be working from home.
The details were revealed in the latest Quarterly Economic Survey carried out by Somerset Chamber in conjunction with the British Chambers of Commerce. The survey is the largest, independent survey of its kind and its results are watched carefully by key policymakers in Government and the Bank of England.
Alistair Tudor, Operations Manager at Somerset Chamber of Commerce, said: “Over 41% of those surveyed said that staff retention was the most important reason to offer flexible working, backing-up reports that businesses are finding it tough to find staff at the moment.
“It was encouraging to see that many had recognised that productivity had increased in many cases, too, and recognising the positive environmental impact of fewer miles travelled to and from the workplace.”
Neil Discombe, Managing Director, of Yeovil-based garage door specialists Garador, said the company was planning to make the most of the benefits offered by flexi-working: “The pandemic caused us to change working practices which we have now reflected on and realised that we have opportunities for improved workplace organisational changes. Networking with other Yeovil manufacturers helped us implement a new homeworking policy that benefits both the business and employees.”
Rob Brown, Director of Wellington-based land surveyors Lewis Brown, said there were definitely two sides to the story, though: “There are pros and cons with working from home. It allows staff to reduce travel time and costs, improve their work/life balance and improve their productivity on specific tasks. On the flip side however, in-house communication and client agility has been impacted.”