This picture shows Yuki Sato, an employee in a startup company, working from home as a result of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Tokyo. — AFP

LONDON: Working from home in Britain is expected to quintuple by 2025, intensifying a trend turbo-charged during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study by consulting firm Deloitte published Friday.  After surveying 90 financial directors drawn from some of Britain’s biggest companies, it found the global health crisis had “triggered fundamental and lasting changes in business”.

As many as 98 percent of those questioned predicted a rise in home-working in the coming years, while more than three-quarters expect the government’s current order to work from home to continue through the first half of this year.  Almost 60 percent expected the curbs on going to workplaces to be permanently lifted in the third quarter, as the country’s COVID-19 mass-vaccination program progresses.

The government imposed a third stay-at-home lockdown this week after a surge in infections linked to a new strain. It intends to review the measures in mid-February. Meanwhile, almost all chief financial officers (CFOs) surveyed expect personal taxes to increase, with nearly two-thirds predicting higher taxes on businesses and an increased state role following huge interventions to prop up the economy.

“By and large, this massive forced experiment in home-working has been very successful,” Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte, told the Daily Telegraph.  “Sectors have been able to maintain quite a high degree of effectiveness operating from home.”

Deloitte UK chief Richard Houston said even after the pandemic, CFOs anticipate greater home-working, diversification of supply chains and investment in technology. “CFOs are optimistic about operating in this changing world, with a return to growth expected this year,” he said in a press release, while stressing most CFOs were keeping money back to guard against a prolonged lockdown and business uncertainty.

Houston noted a Christmas Eve trade deal between Britain and the European Union ended one element of uncertainty and was preferable to a “no-deal” Brexit. But he added CFOs “also recognize the challenges that leaving the EU may pose in the years ahead”, noting the deal had little provision for professional and financial services. “These high-productivity sectors are major UK successes and make vital contributions to jobs and prosperity,” Houston said.

British online clothing retailer Asos on Friday unveiled plans to create 2,000 jobs over the next three years with the creation of a new warehouse in central England. The facility, costing £90 million ($123 million, 99.5 million euros), will be located in Lichfield in Staffordshire, north of the city of Birmingham, Asos said in a statement.

“We’re thrilled to be laying down the foundations for our future growth,” said Chief Executive Nick Beighton.  He said the decision to invest in additional infrastructure and create a large number of jobs reflects the company’s confidence in its future.

“When fully up and running in 2023, the site will support our ever-increasing customer demand and enable us to develop our offerings and delivery capabilities even further.”

The new warehouse will join the group’s three other fulfilment centers which are located in Barnsley in northwestern England, Berlin in Germany and Atlanta in the United States. Asos has enjoyed booming demand during the coronavirus pandemic as consumers flocked online instead of visiting the high street. Sales surged by almost a fifth to £3.26 billion in the group’s financial year that ran to October, while pre-tax profit rocketed 329 percent to £142.1 million. The company has more than 23 million customers across the world, including 7.1 million in home market Britain. — AFP