Independent traders in Nottingham say they are struggling due to a lack of business from workers in the city centre.
A report by Centre for Cities published last months found only 18% of Nottingham's workforce are back in the office.
While that is 1% above the national average, it pales in comparison to nearby Mansfield - which leads the way in the UK with 40% of workers now back at work.
And for smaller food and drink retailers in the city centre, this drop-off due to coronavirus has seriously affected their takings.
Nicola Devos, manager of the Cafe and Cob shop in Derby Road, said: "It's been a lot quieter - I'd say we've had around 50% less people through the door compared to the start of lockdown.
"We're just trying to break even for now. We're just waiting for the call centre nearby, or any of the other offices, to open again.
"But we are doing alright for the moment. There are generally two of us that work at the moment, so we've cut that down."
(Image: Nottingham Post/Marie Wilson)
Sema Quinn, of Quincy's cafe, said: "It's been a hell of a lot quieter.
"We are 50%, maybe 60%, down on our takings. When people do come into the big offices, that's maybe 100 people who all come out and get lunch - it makes a big difference.
"I probably should have opened a little later, maybe 10am, today. I am hoping that this week more people come back to work."
Elena's Patisserie on Chapel Bar opened it's doors the for the first time last July, before it was forced to close temporarily this year due to Covid-19.
The Greek cafe has been back up and running for just two weeks but, like many other places in the city, is serving less customers than before.
Owner Elena Kyrri-Royle said: "It's been tremendously quiet. We've been open for the last two weeks, and there's not been many people at all.
"As a start up business, it's been difficult. I keep checking the government website to see if anything has changed.
"I've had some people on furlough and less staff members in the shop.
(Image: Nottinghamshire Live/Peter Hennessy)
"My staff are like my family, so my biggest concern is protecting them. We are all very close."
Meanwhile, Kate O'Shea, the owner of Tough Mary's Bakehouse on Derby Road, said: "Generally there has been less business, especially at lunchtime.
"After the Eat Out to Help Out scheme ended there was also a massive downturn.
"But I guess now schools are back, less parents may be with their kids and could be looking to eat out again.
"We still have our regulars who come and visit us, we're just going to keep going. But yes less people have been coming in from offices."
(Image: Nottingham Post/Marie Wilson)
East Midlands Chamber director of policy and external affairs, Chris Hobson, told Nottinghamshire Live: “The decisions about where to work in the short term are likely to depend on locations.
“It’s often the case that in towns like Mansfield, the businesses based there are independent and more likely to serve local, rather than international, markets and it means decision-making is taken at a localised level.
“Conversely, in cities, there are a greater number of large corporates that account for employment, and these companies will make decisions at a national level that are filtered down to regional bases.
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“Schools reopening will no doubt lead to more parents being able to travel into their workplaces more, but going forward there is likely to be more of a balance and flexible approach to working as we have realised there are gains to be taken from remote working.
“Ultimately, though, it’s important that sensible and pragmatic conversations take place between employers and employees about what can be done from home, but also when it makes sense to go into the office for both parties.
“Employers that decide to reopen their offices should ensure they follow Government health and safety guidance."
Lucy Stanford, manager of the Nottingham Business Improvement District (BID), added: “Throughout lockdown Nottingham BID supported, and continues to support, its businesses, including the office sector, in a variety of ways.
"This included providing access to comprehensive care packages, counselling and training through Employee Assistance Programmes to support employee welfare as well as setting up online HR and employment advice session with an experienced solicitor covering Covid-19-related topics.
"Nottingham BID created a clear strategy for the city reopening to ensure workers felt safe returning to the city centre and implemented a city wide campaign to welcome people back and reinforce social distancing and safety messaging.
"It is good to see that Nottingham is acceding the national average – it is a sure sign that people feel safe to return to the city and to their workplace once again, this will be a boost for the city’s economy as more office workers return to the city along with the student population.”
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