WISERD research on remote working features on BBC Wales X-Ray

On 20 February 2023, Professor Alan Felstead was interviewed for a BBC television programme investigating the falling footfall in city centres such as Cardiff and the rise in some of the smaller towns surrounding the Welsh capital. Similar patterns are evident across the UK. Professor Felstead’s research shows that one of main reasons for these patterns is the rise in remote and hybrid working which has been triggered by the pandemic.

During the pandemic, many people were working at home for the first time – many had not been trusted to do so before. Employers, too, had to get used to this new way of working. The habit has stuck. Many workers liked working at home and did not want to go back to old ways of working. Nine out of 10 who worked at home during the pandemic said they would like to do so long-term.

Since the pandemic, there has been a shift away from people working all the time at home to hybrid working. This is a situation where some time is spent working at home and some time is spent in the office. Today, around 31% of people are spending at least one day per week working at home, that’s up from around 10% before the pandemic.

Our city centres – where many office-based businesses are situated – have not recovered. They are no longer the ghost towns they were in the pandemic, but neither are they as vibrant as before. Footfall has fallen as people do not physically go into work as often. Their homes have become workplaces for at least some of the time and offices have become quieter.

Spending patterns have therefore been displaced too – ‘lifted and shifted’ from city centres to local high streets nearer to people’s homes, hence the differential changes in footfall highlighted by the TV programme.

The programme was broadcast on 20 February 2023 on BBC Wales and can be viewed on BBC iPlayer (item starts at 05.00 and ends 08.53).  Professor Felstead is author of Remote Working: A Research Overview.