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Half of London businesses will support some remote workdays during post-pandemic week

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New figures released today (25 Mar) provide further evidence of post-pandemic changes to ways of working for many of London’s businesses, and the need for national and London government to work together to counter the impact and embrace the opportunities.

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry commissioned Savanta ComRes to ask* 500 London business leaders (of various business sizes, sectors, and London boroughs) about their organisation’s current ways of working due to the pandemic, and whether they would be maintained when the pandemic is over.

The figures show that around half of businesses plan to continue remote working in some form after the pandemic, with a third of business leaders saying they planned to continue with less physical business space than before covid.

Headline figures show that:

  • 62% of London business leaders said they have allowed staff to work from home at least 2 days a week as a result of the pandemic (the majority of the remainder {32%} said it was not applicable to their organisation).  
  • 36% said they would maintain these levels when the pandemic is over.  A further 16% said they would also continue remote working, but in a reduced manner.  In total, 52% said they will continue remote working in some form each week when the pandemic is over.
  • 41% of businesses polled have reduced their physical space (e.g. offices) as a result of the pandemic. 
  • 31% said they will continue with a reduced space in some form, with 61% saying they will keep conducting meetings virtually where possible, when the pandemic is over. 

Commenting on the findings, Richard Burge, Chief Executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said:

“This is a further body of evidence that shows changes to ways of working that we have seen during the pandemic are going to carry on in some form for some businesses after it is over.

“Our research shows that half of businesses will continue some remote working, whilst a third of businesses polled will continue with reduced physical space, and three in five will maintain virtual meetings where possible.

“That will mean less commuters daily in certain parts of London than pre-covid.  Clearly this presents challenge for support businesses in those areas.  Meanwhile more people will remain in their ‘home’ boroughs each day, and that brings potential opportunity to those areas.  For example, outer London co-working spaces.

London’s councils and the Mayor need to work together as closely as possible, to consider how to respond to the change that this could bring to central and local high streets.

“With a visible ‘hybrid’ approach to ways of working emerging, rail companies simply must be offering part-week, flexible, season ticket options.  And for Transport for London there are significant implications of a potential continued reduction in daily commuter use.  The Government must consider a longer-term financial model with TfL that acknowledges this change of use.

“With central London set to be quieter than pre-covid, it’s all the more essential that the right parameters are in place to support the safe return of domestic and international visitors. 

The investment recently announced by the Mayor of London in a campaign to return domestic tourism is welcomed.  The UK must ensure that our COVID-19 border protection measures are effective, give consumer confidence, and ideally align with the Europe-wide scheme being proposed.  It’s key that the Global Travel Taskforce stick to their reporting timetable, to that regard.”

LCCI asked: Which of the following best describes your organisation’s approach to new ways of working as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Allow staff to work from home at least 2 days a week:

36% said have done this, and will maintain this even when the pandemic is over.

16% said have done this, and will keep this in a reduced fashion when the pandemic is over.

10% said have done this, but will stop once the pandemic is over.

5% said have not done this.

32% said not applicable to my organisation.

1% said don’t know.

Conducting meetings virtually where possible:

39% said have done this, and will maintain this even when the pandemic is over.

22% said have done this, and will keep this in a reduced fashion when the pandemic is over.

16% said have done this, but will stop once the pandemic is over.

5% said have not done this.

17% said not applicable to my organisation.

2% said don’t know.

Reduced physical space (e.g. offices):

18% said have done this, and will maintain this even when the pandemic is over.

13% said have done this, and will keep this in a reduced fashion when the pandemic is over.

11% said have done this, but will stop once the pandemic is over.

21% said have not done this.

35% said not applicable to my organisation.

3% said don’t know.

More flexible working hours (e.g. 4 day week)

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28% said have done this, and will maintain this even when the pandemic is over.

19% said have done this, and will keep this in a reduced fashion when the pandemic is over.

11% said have done this, but will stop once the pandemic is over.

14% said have not done this.

26% said not applicable to my organisation.

2% said don’t know.

Asked to what extent, if at all, would you support or oppose each of the following measures during the Covid-19 pandemic to support Central London businesses that rely on visitors (i.e. commuters and tourists)?

Additional grant funding from Government:

76% said support.

13% said oppose.

10% said don’t know.

Rent reductions on properties:

77% said support.

14% said oppose.

9% said don’t know.

Incentives for new businesses and start-ups to open in central London:

82% said support.

9% said oppose.

9% said don’t know.

Incentives for visitors and workers to travel into central London when it is safe to do so:

71% said support.

16% said oppose.

13% said don’t know.

Those taking part in the survey were also asked to envisage a situation where COVID-19 levels are under control, with all workplaces in London allowed to re-open, but having to follow social distancing measures (e.g. maintain 2 metres between people).

Assuming your business is also able to make use of working from home as well (where applicable), to what extent, if at all, do you think your business would still be able to operate successfully?

54% said social distancing in the workplace would not significantly impact our ability to work successfully.

31% said social distancing in the workplace would make us less efficient, but we could still operate.

8% said my business could not operate if social distancing were required in the workplace.

7% said don’t know.

Finally, business leaders were asked when do you expect business conditions for their firm and the wider London economy to return to how they were before the pandemic?

46% said 2022 or later. 

41% said in 2021. 

Of those who said 2021, it was 62% for larger organisations, 39% for smaller businesses.

*Methodology: Savanta ComRes interviewed 500 London business leaders online between 4th February and 16th March 2021. Data were weighted to be representative of all London business leaders by size and broad industry sector. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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