Major employers scrap plans to cut back on offices - KPMG

The City of London financial district can be seen as people walk along the south side of the River Thames, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Most major global companies no longer plan to reduce their use of office space after the coronavirus pandemic, though few expect business to return to normal this year, a survey by accountants KPMG showed on Tuesday.

Just 17% of chief executives plan to cut back on offices, down from 69% in the last survey in August.

"Either downsizing has already taken place, or plans have changed as the impact of extended, unplanned, remote working has taken a toll on some employees," KPMG said.

Many offices in London, New York and other Western cities have been empty for months after health authorities ordered staff to work from home where possible, but the roll-out of vaccines means some firms are now planning for a return.

Most chief executives said they wanted vaccination rates to exceed half the population before they started to encourage staff back to the office - a target which is close to being met in Britain but remains distant in much of Europe.

More than three quarters of chief executives also wanted the government to encourage people to return to offices before employers themselves started to request it.

Just 31% of businesses expected their operations to return to normal this year, while 45% expected a return to normality in 2022. However, just under a quarter of firms said the pandemic would permanently change their operations.

The survey covered 500 firms with sales of over $500 million based in 11 countries including the United States, China, Japan, Germany and Britain, and took place between Jan. 29 and March 4.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Alistair Smout)