By Kristy Dorsey

Less than one in 10 mid-sized businesses in Scotland believe a full-time return to the office would be best for their staff, with the majority planning to offer more flexible working arrangements beyond the pandemic.

The new research from Grant Thornton is among the first to focus on the intentions of mid-market companies – defined as those with annual turnover of between £50 million and £500m – in a debate that has so far been dominated by global corporations. It found that just 8 per cent of Scottish businesses falling within this category favour a return to full-time office working.

A hybrid split between the home and office was cited as the best model by a majority of 74%. Of those, 14% expect workers will spend most of their time in the office, while 38% said it would be more efficient for employees to work from home most of the time.

READ MORE: High-end office space still in demand

Andrew Howie, Grant Thornton’s managing partner in Scotland, said discussions about how and when to return to the office have so far been led by the major financial institutions, tech firms and professional advisors that have publicly outlined their plans.

“But this research provides an important barometer of mid-market business sentiment to working models as Scotland moves through what we all hope are the final stages of this pandemic,” he said. “It’s clear that the role of the office is set to alter for many businesses – and reduce its importance for a significant proportion.

READ MORE: Lack of flexibility to exclude the vulnerable from jobs recovery

“Some changes may be driven by the chance to reduce overheads. But for others, the switch to a remote-first model is likely to be driven by the battle for talent, to maintain a competitive advantage in a new world of work where choice of employer is no longer restricted by location in many sectors.”

Of the employers questioned, 60% said their staff expect the flexible working options established during the last 12 months to continue. As a result, 56% said they will need to reconfigure their offices.

There are concerns about the remote-led model of hybrid working, with 49% of employers anxious about a lack of client-facing time. This was closely followed by unease in managing the work of more junior employees (47%) and the loss of company culture (47%).