Homeworking and the high street

Think tank: Centre for Cities

Author(s): Valentine Quinio

June 16, 2022

This report from UK think tank Centre for Cities looks at how important is it for city centres that workers return to the office.

Before the pandemic, the vibrancy of the high street varied greatly across the country. Some, but not all, were doing well. Their performance was largely driven by the economic strength of the city centre they sat in, in part because the presence of highly productive, well-paid jobs underpinned demand for local businesses like shops, cafes and restaurants. The strength of this relationship turned into a weakness when the pandemic hit and the ‘work-from-home revolution’ meant that a number of local businesses lost their customer base overnight. As the economy has reopened, workers haven’t returned in the numbers we saw before the pandemic. This has raised questions about the repercussions homeworking is having on those high streets that rely on office workers the most. Using spend and footfall data, this briefing looks at the impact that homeworking is having on local businesses, how important it is for the high street that office workers return, and what prospects it faces if they don’t.