UK city centres to lose 'billions' as a result of hybrid working

The UK government is reportedly looking at ways to support hybrid approaches, despite the loss of footfall traffic to shops and restaurants

The five largest cities in the UK could lose as much as £322 million a month if offices move to hybrid working long-term, according to new research. 

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) has estimated that London, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle and Cardiff could all see revenue from shops, pubs and office-adjacent eateries fall significantly. 

A total of £11.9 billion has already been displaced from city centres during the pandemic, the organisation said, which would have otherwise been spent on inner-city retail and eating out. 

London appears to be the hardest hit, with a total of £8.2 billion lost between March 2020 and May 2021, according to the CEBR. What's more, the capital is predicted to lose £234 million per month, should businesses maintain a hybrid working strategy for the foreseeable future.

Manchester will see the next biggest loss at £1.8 billion, with an estimated loss of just £48 million per month expected by the CEBR.

The research pulls in Google mobility data which shows that in April 2020, the number of people going to places of work on a weekday was 69% lower than before the pandemic. That figure had only recovered by half at just 34% in May 2021.

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Of the five cities, Cardiff had the lowest share of returning workers, at 50% lower than pre-pandemic levels, while Newcastle had the highest share at just 34% lower. 

The popularity of hybrid working environments is rapidly growing as businesses look for realistic ways to manage COVID restrictions and the demands of their employees. Over the weekend, financial giant Deloitte announced that it would allow its 200,000-strong workforce to choose where they work, with its offices set to be transitioned into collaboration spaces. 

What's more, the UK government is reportedly set to begin encouraging hybrid approaches, according to leaked documents seen by the CEBR.

The Conservative Party had previously sent out muddled messages on remote working, suggesting people should come back into the office after the first lockdown, citing concerns around the loss of footfall traffic to shops and eateries. Despite the expected losses in revenue, the document reportedly suggests the government is actively looking at ways to help people to continue working from home if there is no 'need' for them to be in an office. 

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