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July 7, 2021

Age divide determines whether UK SMEs will return to the office or WfH: survey

By Alejandro Gonzalez

A survey from Hitachi Capital Business Finance reveals that older small business owners will continue with hybrid and home working, whilst younger small business owners seem raring the get back to a bustling office in the next six months.

The Hitachi survey was conducted by MaruBlue among a representative sample of 1,464 small business decision-makers on 8-11 May spanning industry sectors.

At a time when the nation gears up for a return to a pre-pandemic world of work, Hitachi Capital surveyed a representative sample of 1,464 small business owners and decision-makers, asking where they plan to work by the end of this year. The findings reveal that business owner age determines the environment that will be adopted after Covid – not sector, location, size or turnover.

Bosses aged over 45 were found to be nearly twice as likely to be considering remote working by the end of this year as those under 35 (52% vs. 29%). Specifically, around a quarter planned hybrid working (27%), with roughly the same proportion completely working remotely (25%), suggesting the older generation has adjusted well to the new methods of working during the lockdown era.

By contrast, bosses under 35 were significantly more likely to be planning a return to the office or on-site work environment. Around half (50%) intended to ask staff to return to the office – significantly higher than the proportion considering hybrid working (15%), or working entirely from home/remotely (16%).

Asking about what was important about their working environment for the next 12 months, the answers pointed to notable differences in priorities between the age groups. For bosses over 45, family time and the desire to minimise the threat of Covid were front of mind. Two in five (44%) wanted to ensure a good work/life balance long-term for staff, while 39% prioritised having a Covid-secure environment long term (38%). A quarter (23%) pointed to the benefits the increased use of technology was having to become a more agile business.

Meanwhile, for bosses under 35, the focus was significantly more focus on the benefits of a workroom environment. Top priorities included ensuring a positive dynamic between team members (25%), having a good environment for staff’s mental health (25%), and the ability to deliver a better service (24%).

These findings dash assumptions that the younger, more tech-savvy generation are driving changes in work habits. In contrast, it is older small business owners that have greater experience that feel more able to work on their own or away from an office environment.

Joanna Morris, head of Insight Hitachi Capital Business Finance, said: “Small businesses have gone through a lot of change as a result of the pandemic, with many forced to adapt to new ways of working, whether this be hybrid or home. As we emerge from the restrictions of the past year, this is the moment when small business owners can, for the first time, exercise choice in how they want to work going forward. 

“The [Hitachi survey] shows there is no single viewpoint. Some small businesses want to return to the traditional workplace – and, whilst the proportion that do this is set to rise, less than half of small businesses will return to the office. Hybrid and home working are here to stay which means there will be far greater diversity than ever before in how small businesses choose to work.

“There is no average or norm anymore – small businesses will work from a range of environments, with each having different perceived benefits. At Hitachi Capital Business Finance we celebrate the growing diversity of the small business community and we will adapt our services to support their varying and specific needs.”

Our feature from 28 April

‘We came together so well in a remote circumstance’

Richard Jones, the chairman of the UK’s Finance & Leasing Association (FLA), looks back on the lessons learned over the last year and considers what’s next for the trade body.   

We’re about eight weeks away, with lots of fingers crossed, from all restrictions being lifted in the UK. I hope that many of you will be freshly ‘shorn’ of any lockdown haircuts and, like I was earlier, you may well be trying to remember how to tie a tie for the first time in a while and figure out what you used to do to get into a building to go to work.

This is a remarkable period we find ourselves in and before we turn our mind to what lies ahead, I’d like to briefly reflect on what we’ve been through as an industry …. (read more)

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