As we begin to exit pandemic restrictions, it seems we’ve adopted a ‘new normal’: hybrid working. Hybrid working was somewhat of a rarity pre-pandemic and even mid-pandemic, but this new combination of office and home working looks like it’s here to stay. This new way of working has changed people’s behaviours; the consequences of which can be dramatic, and for certain businesses, the drop in footfall in city centres and on local high streets poses a real threat. To survive, brands need to create agile and flexible strategies. Here are our thoughts on the winners and losers of the new working week.
Perhaps the biggest losers from both the pandemic and the new working week are pubs. Recently England’s oldest pub (Ye Olde Fighting Cocks) was forced to close, which is sad but not surprising given the wider context: the British pub industry lost £5.7 billion in 2021. But what does this have to do with hybrid working? With fewer people in the office the typical post-work drinks are seemingly decreasing in frequency, and when it does happen the number of people joining in is much lower.
So how can pubs and bars face this challenge? Brewdog has taken up the gauntlet of reduced footfall by pioneering the idea of the ‘pub desk’. The ‘pub desk’ (known as the DeskDog) offered customers a table in Brewdog’s bars for the day for £7, including WiFi, unlimited tea and coffee, and even a pint at the end of the day. This offer was extended to a monthly pass for £70 which helped (and helps) to keep the numbers of people at Brewdog high.
Another notable victim is the coworking sector. The giant of this space, WeWork, has reported serious concerns over the impact of the pandemic on their operations. Their hold of a whopping 70 co-working sites across London alone has come under significant pressure since the onset of the pandemic, and this looks set to continue. Despite the increasing loosening of COVID regulations and the complete relaxation of all restrictions in the UK this week, office occupancy is still only at around 25% across the country – a particularly stark figure when compared to the average of 60% occupancy pre-pandemic. As more and more companies and employees either give up the idea of brick and mortar office spaces completely or opt for a more flexible and reduced approach, the outlook for WeWork and its equivalents remains on the backfoot.
The biggest winners are workers themselves, with 85% of workers wanting a hybrid approach according to ONS figures. Hybrid working has many benefits such as a greater ability to focus without distractions; saving time and money by not commuting and a better work-life balance.
The flexibility of hybrid structures is also increasingly feeding into people’s broader lifestyles. As a result, the businesses in the health and fitness industry that can adapt and keep up with these expectations are leading the way, for example, home-workout solutions such as Zwift which enjoyed a significant boom in users during strict pandemic restrictions. As the world opens up and people not only need but want, to get out and about more, companies that can offer both at-home and brick and mortar workout options are looking to be the long-term winners. Les Mills for example, traditionally specialising in face-to-face classes, launched the Les Mills+ app, pairing personalised digital workouts that can be done at home with a platform that finds in-person classes or live workouts in your local area. This ‘meet in the middle approach is key to adapting to new consumer needs around flexibility, as well as potentially extending appeal across all kinds of customers; those that want to come to a gym, and those who would rather work out at home.
Across both the winners and losers of hybrid working, the ability for brands and businesses to be agile enough to adapt and benefit from a seemingly negative situation is vital for success.