It’s been almost 5 months since the UK lockdown was announced. Since then many retail and hospitality businesses have closed and re-opened and staff have returned to their place of work. For many office-based employees their return to work remains in limbo as they continue to work from home.

According to recent data from ONS, 49% of workers are now working from home in the UK. Compare this to similar data captured between 2015 and 2019. Which showed around 5% of the UK workforce who worked ‘mainly’ from home.

Remote working has been a trend for several years now. However, these statistics show that it was still a rarity for someone to spend more time working out of their office than in it. Of course, working remotely didn’t always mean working from home. Prior to lockdown KAM Media surveyed 1,000 UK workers to find out what the most popular remote working venues are outside of working from home. Coffee shops came out top, just ahead of shared office spaces, such as WeWork. Pubs and bars came out 3rd with 10% of the vote.

Getting back to the office

Lockdown, of course, changed all that. With hospitality venues shut, working from home took on a literal meaning. So, for months, office workers made the daily commute from bedroom to home office/kitchen table/living room sofa. Whilst some thrived on the simplicity, the novelty and the freedom that working from home brought, some found it more of a challenge. However, as time goes on, many now long to return to a more sociable and structured environment. According to a recent survey by the global financial services company Jefferies, 61% of UK office-workers said they would return to work immediately if they could.

Have we had enough of working from home?

Although, under current guidelines office-based employers can encourage workers to return, many remain understandably cautious. Thus working-from-home is likely to remain for a large swathe of the working population. The knock-on effects for hospitality venues may also be lasting. In KAM Media’s recent survey, ahead of the re-opening of UK pubs, we surveyed 1,000 UK pub-goers, and of those who have used pubs for remote working in the past. 37% claimed they wouldn’t be doing so post-lockdown. 40% also said they wouldn’t be having business meetings in pubs as much as prior to lockdown. More worryingly, out of all the occasions we used pubs for (e.g. watching sports, dating, catching up with friends, lazy weekend days, etc.) ‘work-based occasions’ were the ones which where we expected to see the most negative impact post-lockdown.

It shouldn’t have to be this way. Many people working from home are craving a social space. Or even just a ‘different’ space to the one they’ve been working in for the last few months. If they can’t go back to their office just yet, then venues such as cafes, pubs, restaurants and hotels should be thinking about how they can attract these people. Clearly there are lots of things to consider. With Covd-19 prevention measures paramount innovative solutions are often the most-simple solutions. There is a huge opportunity here to tap into a large potential customer base for those operators that can get it right.

Hospitality venues providing a social space for office workers

We’ve already referenced the BrewDog remote work-space offer in our blogs before. It’s interesting to see that they’ve developed this offer further in recent days. Whereas previously you could claim a table for the day for just £7. Which includes WiFi, unlimited tea and coffee and a pint at the end of a long day. This offer has been extended to a monthly pass for £70. Following the more traditional models of purpose built office spaces such as WeWork and Uncommon, but for a fraction of the price. It’s not surprising to see BrewDog continue to be at the forefront of this trend. However, it’s not always perfect. I’ve used this offer in the past, and the trouble with a lot of pubs and bars is that they get busy (and noisy) around lunch and from late afternoon onwards. So it may not be the right fit for everyone and certainly something to consider when devising an offer which aims to offer home workers a viable alternative to working from home Vs a venue with too much of a buzz that you can’t hear the other people on your Zoom (other video conferencing apps are available!) conference call.

Pre-Covid-19, remote working was already a growing trend. It was expected that 1-in-2 UK office-workers would work remotely (to some degree) by 2030. It was a trend which we believed was going to be a big opportunity for the hospitality sector to get involved with over the next few years. Coronavirus means we’re already there. Sure, there are challenges that need to be overcome to ensure remote workers feel comfortable to spend a day in a venue. However, with 8 million people currently working from home, there is a sizeable consumer base that is crying out for a reason to leave their house.

Blake Gladman

Strategy & Insight Director

For more information on the KAM Media ‘Return of the Pub’ research report. Visit https://kam-media.co.uk/research_products/ . Download a free excerpt and request more information on purchasing a copy.