Sheffield is the fourth-most affected city in the UK, the report said. Credit: via Chapter II

Industry body proposes ways forward in hybrid working age

The Sheffield Property Association has made recommendations for employers and stakeholders, after research it commissioned showed a post-Covid consumer spending decline of £3bn in the UK’s largest city centres.

The report, which can be read in full at the S-PA website, comes from Kada Research, which was asked to evaluate the impact of working-from-home (WFH) practices on Sheffield city centre.

Kada found that Sheffield has the fourth joint highest increase in remote working, where many city centre employers are operating at less than 25% occupancy.

The objectives of the report were to analyse national and international WFH trends and impacts, assess Sheffield-specific impacts, gather stakeholder insights, and predict future trends.

S-PA has produced recommendations for Sheffield employers and key stakeholders to encourage increased levels of office work and support the future economic prosperity of the city centre.

Among the recommendations are continuing to support investment in the public sphere, backing retailers, supporting mixed-use development through planning and supporting the night-time economy through post-work spending incentives.

The report revealed that the number of UK homeworkers increased from 4.7m to 9.9m between 2019 and 2022. The impact of reduced spending, due to WFH practices, has led to a loss of £3bn consumer spending in the largest city centres in that time.

The report highlights the vulnerability of city centres, particularly those with a high concentration of professionals, and emphasises that changes in working patterns are substantial and likely permanent.

The hybrid working trends reveal that UK daily office occupancy, as of the end of 2022, averaged close to 30% and varied throughout the week, with Mondays and Fridays having lower occupancy rates.

However, recent data indicates an increase in office occupancy this year, climbing to 35.9% in April 2023.

The report also addresses employers’ concerns regarding the potential negative impact of WFH on productivity and the benefits of agglomeration. While some businesses require employees to work in the office for two to three days, employees appreciate the enhanced mental, physical, and financial well-being that comes with hybrid working.

As has been highlighted by a series of corporate lettings, companies are planning to reduce office space, indicating their preparation for a hybrid future.

And there is a flipside to people spending closer to home: Sheffield benefits from remote working patterns by keeping the spending of the 37,500 Sheffield residents who do not work within the city within the local economy. However, the sustainability of businesses relying on city centre workers is an issue, and ultimately, the report emphasises the importance of having a diverse residential population in the city.

Director of S-PA, Tim Bottrill, said: “On behalf of the Sheffield Property Association, I extend my sincere appreciation to Kada Research for their outstanding work and commitment to our shared vision of a prosperous and thriving city.

“It is through this collaborative effort that we have been able to uncover key trends, assess Sheffield-specific impacts, and predict future trends related to the evolving workplace landscape. This research enables us to better understand the changing dynamics of the workplace and make informed decisions to support the future economic prosperity of our city.”

Rob Darrington, also a director of S-PA, said “It’s fantastic to get this level of insight into a topic that affects so many of us in our daily working lives. This is the first time anyone has looked at working-from-home patterns following the pandemic on a local and national level in this level of detail.

“The report shows value in not only acting as a snapshot analysis of the impact of working from home but also with its recommendations for going forward based on the findings of the research. We hope the recommendations are taken on board to ensure that the effects of working from home can be mitigated.”

The Sheffield Property Association (S-PA) is an active group of businesses dedicated to revitalising Sheffield’s built environment. Since 2017, the group has been actively investing, generating opportunities, and promoting prosperity in the city.

Through research and collaborative efforts, it looks to influence decision-making processes to benefit local communities while fostering strong relationships between land-owning and development businesses, stakeholders, and partners.

You can download the full report here.

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