26 June 2024

‘Work from the pub’ post-pandemic opportunity

NICRE-funded research

Pubs are a core part of the hospitality sector in the UK and undertake activities that support their local communities, generating community social value and representing a significant social asset, particularly in rural areas, writes Dr Jane Deville, Research Fellow, University of Lincoln. Yet rising energy costs, increased employment overheads and difficulties in recruiting staff post-pandemic all threaten their viability. However, amidst adversity may lie an opportunity. As remote working becomes more prevalent, there is potential for pubs to diversify into offering workspace to broaden their income.

Our research, funded by NICRE, used a mixed methods approach to gather the views of pub managers, trade bodies and homeworkers to explore the potential for rural pubs to offer ‘work from the pub’ to remote and homeworkers to help meet the needs of post-pandemic ways of working.

(Pictured right) The White Swan in Norfolk offers informal working.

Findings and implications

Working from the pub - coworking as a diversification opportunity for rural pubs details our research with key findings and implications summarised below:

Pubs already offer workspaces: Our research revealed a surprising array of work activities already taking place within pubs, showcasing their adaptability and versatility as communal spaces.

Underused multifunctional spaces: Many pubs have already embraced the concept of ‘work from the pub’ by repurposing underutilised areas into workspaces or meeting rooms. This resourcefulness presents a cost-effective means of diversification and revenue generation.

Not all pubs are equal: While offering workspace may be suitable for some pubs, it is not feasible for all depending on factors such as ownership structure, available space and managerial capacity. However, offering workspace may become an additional diversification option to attract income during off-peak hours or appeal to homeworkers and digital nomads seeking remote workspaces in rural areas.

Reframing perceptions: Some pubs may struggle to incorporate workspace due to their existing image and association with terms such as gastro pub, community pub or wet-led pub all influencing people’s perceptions of the space. Educating the public on the benefits of working in a pub setting and dispelling myths about noise or discomfort will be crucial to enabling pubs to attract remote workers.

Meeting remote workers’ needs: To attract remote workers pubs must ensure they have essential amenities such as reliable Wi-Fi and quieter workspaces. Moreover, offering enticing incentives such as lunch and drink deals as well as marketing themselves as a ‘warm hub’ may enhance their appeal.

Marketing the opportunity: We are planning a targeted marketing pack explaining the benefits of 'work from the pub,' to both pub managers and remote workers, including case studies and editable templates for promotional use.

Innovate to meet workers' evolving needs

As rural communities continue to undergo profound transformation, the use of pubs as workspaces may offer a new opportunity for diversification. By embracing innovation, challenging perceptions and meeting the evolving needs of remote workers, ‘work from the pub’ may help our pubs, not only survive, but thrive in the post-pandemic era.