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Just 3% of mid-market businesses plan full return to the office in North West

Just 3% of mid-market businesses in the North West are planning for a return to full-time office working post-pandemic, according to new research from Grant Thornton UK LLP.

A hybrid split between home and office was cited as the most likely model by most (92%). However, just one in four mid-sized firms (24%) expect their workforce to be spending the majority of their time in the office, with 48% planning for employees to work from home most of the time.

The leading business adviser’s data also shows that employee preference and the battle for talent is likely playing a factor in that decision; with 64% of the region’s workforce in mid-sized companies expecting to maintain flexible working options established over the last 12 months. More than a third (36%) of medium-sized businesses are actively planning to offer more flexible working arrangements.

Business leaders have expressed some concerns regarding a new remote-led model of hybrid working. Amongst their top areas to address are: managing junior staff (47%); mentoring and training (45%); and loss of culture (44%)

The way workspaces are used is also likely to change, with 43% actively planning to reconfigure their offices to accommodate the collaborative and creative projects that the office will predominantly be used for.

Carl Williams, North West managing partner at Grant Thornton, said: “The debate over how and when to return to the office has so far largely been led by Whitehall and global corporates: financial institutions, tech firms and professional advisory firms have publically outlined plans.

“But this research provides an important barometer of mid-market business sentiment to working models as the UK moves through what we all hope are the final stages of this pandemic. In the North West, it’s clear that the role of the office is set to alter for many businesses – and reduce in its importance for a significant proportion. Some changes may be driven by the chance to reduce overheads. But for others, the switch to a remote-first model is likely to be driven by the battle for talent; to maintain a competitive advantage in a new world of work where choice of employer is no longer restricted by location in many sectors.

“Our research also shows that the most proactive businesses are actively considering how best to re-configure their workspaces to facilitate the collaborative, creative, group activities and meetings which they will remain crucial for. By the end of the year Grant Thornton’s 350-strong Manchester team will have a new base in the city centre. We committed to this in January, as we want our people and clients to have access to a best-in-class workspace that meets the needs of hybrid working moving forwards; one equipped with the prerequisite technology to facilitate a seamless combination of remote and in-office collaboration.”

Earlier this year, Grant Thornton announced plans to move its Manchester headquarters to the city’s Landmark development, which features a panoramic roof terrace overlooking St Peter’s Square. The firm is currently discussing design and fit-out options with suppliers to ensure the new workspace will support an innovative hybrid model of remote and office working.

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