Research shows that 48% of small manufacturers expect to return to, or exceed, their pre-COVID-19 position within the next quarter, although some expect a permanent change to working practices.
A further 32 per cent of the SME manufacturers surveyed across England and Wales by the South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS) said they expected a full recovery within 12 months. This is despite around half of the respondents admitting they are still trading at reduced levels for now.
The results reflect recent data showing that the UK manufacturing sector is seeing record month-on-month growth rates as the pace of the economic recovery quickens.
As social distancing restrictions begin to ease, the survey also asked manufacturers about their thoughts around employees returning to on-site work.
Only 39 per cent of respondents said their workforce had predominantly remained on-site during the pandemic, compared to 84 per cent prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, more than a quarter said they did not expect to return to predominantly on-site working.
Instead, more than two fifths are planning to offer a combination of on-site and remote working to at least some of their employees post-COVID-19, compared to just 14 per cent offering this flexibility before the pandemic began.
As a result of impacts of COVID-19 on their workforce, some manufacturers are also planning to offer a number of employee benefits going forward, including flexible working hours (35 per cent), mental health awareness support or training (23 per cent) and digital skills training to support new ways of working (15 per cent).