More than 100,000 new tech jobs have been created in the UK since the start of the pandemic, but growing momentum behind remote working could mean a 'dramatic' scaling back of office space and tech hubs.
More than 100,000 new UK jobs have been created in tech since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
ONS data published this week shows that information and communication roles have increased by 104,000 since April 2020, even as many other sectors of the economy continue to struggle. There are now almost 1.6 million technology jobs in the UK.
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While in the past that increase in jobs might have meant finding more desks in the office, preliminary results from Harvey Nash's Tech Survey 2021 suggests that technology companies may need to dramatically scale back their office space given the growing appetite for remote working beyond COVID-19.
According to the tech recruiter, more than three-quarters (79%) of tech workers – the equivalent of over one million people working in the sector – want to continue working from home for the majority of the week after the pandemic.
A survey sample of 500 UK tech professionals found that 95% wanted to work from home 2-5 days a week. This compares with 42% of tech professionals working 2-5 days a week from home prior to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, more than a third (38%) of tech professionals reported that home working during the pandemic had increased the distance they are prepared to live from the office by 'a little' (12.59%) or 'significantly' (25.44%).
Several major companies have signaled their intention to continue operating as a remote-first workplace beyond the coronavirus pandemic, bringing into question the role that traditional offices will play within new, hybrid-style workplaces.
For many companies, this will involve transforming offices to prioritize meeting space and socializing. By way of example, Salesforce, which this monthplans to reconfigure its workplaces into studio-like 'hubs' with fewer desks and more collaboration and breakout spaces.
This week, banking giant HSBC announced plans to slash its office space by almost half to cut costs, with CEO Noel Quinn explaining that, like many businesses, HSBC had learned that staff "could be just as productive working from home as in the office."
However, the organization will hang onto its headquarters in London's Canary Wharf. Quinn said that "the nature of working in the office will change" to reflect more flexible styles of working.
"We believe we'll achieve it via a very different style of working post-COVID with a more hybrid model," he added.
Like many major cities, the momentum behind the long-term shift to remote work appears to be strong in the UK capital.
A survey of 400 senior decision makers by international law firm Bird & Bird found that 78% of London businesses expected remote working that has been adopted during the pandemic to continue for the foreseeable future.
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As a result, three in five (60%) decision makers say that they are now investing more in their corporate culture than they were 12 months ago, rising to almost 80% among technology and communications businesses.
According to Harvey Nash, the shift to remote working en masse over the past 12 months has led to work location and remote working being identified as among the top factors for job-hunters, for the first time – second only to pay.
With the equivalent of one million UK tech workers aiming to continue working the majority of the week from home post-pandemic, Harvey Nash concluded this will not only have a huge impact on tech office space and hubs, but will also drive the creation of more remote roles in professions such as cybersecurity, data analysis, software engineering, and AI and machine learning.
Bev White, chief executive of Harvey Nash Group, said: "The ONS figures underline the strong health of tech amidst booming demand for digital and cloud-based solutions and services in the COVID era. We don't see any sign of this changing, and expect many thousands more jobs to be created in tech through the rest of this year and beyond."
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