The government may be encouraging people to return to work, but new research has found that workers in small businesses are twice as likely as those in larger firms to continue working from home.
A survey conducted by Hitachi Capital Business Finance during the week that COVID restrictions ended has found that 58% of people that work for large companies were preparing for a return to the workplace; however, small businesses were twice as likely as their bigger counterparts to continue working from home (27% versus 14%) - with just 41% of small business employees returning to the workplace.
And a second Hitachi Capital survey, focusing on small business owners, has found that that those working from home or adopting hybrid working were more likely to see tangible business benefits, compared to those returning to the workplace.
Small businesses whose staff are currently working from home are most likely to cite the benefits of a better work-life balance (52%) and to say homeworking has been good for the mental health and wellbeing of their staff (33%). These enterprises also valued being able to work in a COVID-secure way (44%).
What's more, it seems that home and hybrid working are making small businesses more successful. These small firms are most likely to say they have used technology to help their enterprises to become more agile (33%) and are most likely to say their work environment has boosted their productivity levels (20%). The findings also show that:
- 24% said hybrid working fostered a positive dynamic between team members;
- 20% said it improved the effectiveness of their business networking;
- 18% said the reduction in overheads has helped them to become more profitable;
- 17% said it has been easier to hire the right people and develop a more diverse workforce.
Joanna Morris, head of insight at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, said: "Many smaller enterprises have been forced to adapt during the lockdown era and, for many, the positive outcomes will inform business planning going forward. For some, technology has helped small businesses to become agile, digitised enterprises - whilst for others, the cost savings from rents and fixed overheads has been liberating and transformed cashflow. These innovations can help some enterprises achieve tangible competitive advantage.
"In short, there will be no single response to restrictions ending and there will be no 'average' small business. The diversity between enterprises that work from an office, from home or opt for a new hybrid arrangement will become a permanent feature of the small business landscape going forward."
However, IT experts are warning that home and hybrid working are making it harder to prevent data breaches such as phishing. Egress' 2021 Insider Data Breach Survey has found that 73% of organisations have suffered data breaches caused by phishing attacks in the past year. Remote work has increased the risk, with 53% of IT leaders reporting an increase in incidents caused by phishing. The research also revealed concerns over future hybrid working, with half of IT leaders saying it will make it harder to prevent breaches caused by malicious email attacks.
Written by Rachel Miller.