As offices prepare to reopen, business leaders in the region are making, or planning to make, significant changes to the working environment in a bid to recover from the effects of the global pandemic.

Nearly half of Yorkshire businesses (42%) plan to create permanent remote roles, as companies make a major shift towards new ways of working.

According to the latest BDO LLP Rethinking the Economy survey of 500 mid-sized businesses, more than a quarter (26%) of Yorkshire companies intend to adapt their office space, with the same number looking to introduce agile or hybrid-working on a permanent basis. Nearly a quarter (23%) admitted that they expect the majority of staff to work from home for at least three days a week once offices reopen. As such, the number one priority for mid-sized businesses is to invest in technology to support more employees working remotely.

Terry Jones, partner and head of BDO in Yorkshire and the North East, said: “There is clearly a concerted effort by regional businesses to embrace new ways of working and adapt the office environment in response to the ongoing challenges thrown at them by the pandemic. This is particularly pronounced in traditional sectors, such as manufacturing, where there is a real step change in approach.

“Interestingly, remote working will be one of the biggest drivers in boosting economic recovery, according to the survey, with 29% of Yorkshire businesses saying that the region will benefit from workers spending more money locally in towns, suburbs and rural economies, rather than commuting into city centres. Of course, this will impact the health of some city centre businesses which rely on footfall, but we are starting to see places rethink the way they will attract people into our cities to enjoy the cultural, hospitality and leisure offering.”

The report also showed that Yorkshire businesses are continuing to gather momentum and strengthen revenue streams. More than half (61%) intend to bring back staff after the furlough scheme ends in September, while 51% plan to hire permanent or temporary staff in the next six months.

Jones added: “With more than half of companies (55%) expecting to return to pre-COVID-19 revenues within the next 12 months, there is a clear desire to put in place strong foundations on which to build more resilient businesses.

“There’s little doubt that the region still faces challenges posed by the pandemic, while attempting to address other concerns, such as dealing with a reduction in productivity as a result of remote working and the ongoing issue of trying to access the right talent in the region. It’s precisely employment that will help feed into improving living standards across the region – something that defines ‘levelling up’ for Yorkshire business leaders.”