A Belfast business group is offering a £25 shopping voucher to employers to help encourage staff back to the office.
Linen Quarter Business Improvement District said the slow return to offices by workers in Belfast was holding back the city’s economy.
While some businesses had returned, managing director Chris McCracken said the Executive’s continued ‘work from home where you can’ guidance was inhibiting a wider return.
Last week, a survey by Belfast Chamber revealed that only 12% of its members had their staff back in the office full-time.
Mr McCracken said LQ BID welcomed the added flexibility and productivity which a hybrid approach of mixing office and homeworking could bring.
“However, the realisation of this new normal is being inhibited by the current work from home guidance, which is now past its sell by date and actively discouraging companies from embracing progressive ways of working.”
He said that before the pandemic, office workers were making a huge contribution to the economy, day and night, with many businesses springing up to cater for them.
“From coffee meetings with clients and after-work drink with colleagues, we need to see the safe return of offices so our city can thrive.”
Mr McCracken said it will be providing one voucher to each member company in the area, which could be used for purposes such as taking employees out, or buying coffee for a client.
Around 400 firms are located in the Linen Quarter area, which includes streets like Adelaide Street and Linenhall Street .
LQ Bid said it had developed ‘welcome back’ packs for businesses, including a £25 gift card which could be used across the district. The packs are to be given out by the BID’s street ambassadors.
The BID said it had been working to improve outdoor spaces in the area, and recently opened a new parklet for workers to congregate on the corner of Linenhall Street and Clarence Street.
Mr McCracken said: “The reality is that the pandemic has changed cities forever. Our ambition is to create shared, sustainable spaces that will drive footfall to restore economic vitality and create environments for safe and positive social interaction – places people want to spend time.”
It will also be installing a boardwalk at Linenhall Street to give opportunities for hospitality businesses.
And a major social hub at Brunswick Street, which is to open by Christmas, is to bring a container café, open-air seating and an outdoor stage and games area.