VICTORIA -- With small businesses across Vancouver Island beginning to open and adjust to a new normal there seems to be one important thing missing, a customer base.

Many office workers are still working from home and business is suffering in the downtown core. Now, a new study says many of those workers may never return to working in office buildings.

The study, conducted by research firm Valior, out of the United States, found that 40 per cent of people in North America never want to return to cubical life.

It may be surprising to some, but the study also found that there is only a 1 per cent drop in employee productivity when working from home.

“I think that for the large percentage of the population, [the consensus is], ‘My work habits before are my work habits now,’” said Rebecca Wettemann, lead author of the report and is an analyst with Valior in Boston.

For employees, the benefits are obvious. Your life-work balance increases and there’s no need to commute or pay for parking.

For employers, there are also has huge benefits.

“The big advantage, whether you’re a government organization or a private organization, is you are going to save so much money,” said Dr. Mark Colgate, with the Gustovson School of Business at the University of Victoria.

“They will save money in terms of energy costs but also maybe you can reduce your office space.”

Colgate adds that pollution would decline if employees continue to work from home.

“The big winner is going to be the environment,” he said. “The more people working from home, the less degradation on the environment.”

With all those buildings in the downtown core sitting half empty, what does that mean for the small business owners that rely on foot traffic and a busy lunch rush?

“It is very concerning thinking that a lot of offices aren’t going to go back to working normal hours,” said Michele Byrne, co-owner of The Dutch Bakery in downtown Victoria.

The Dutch Bakery has been a family-run business for 64 years and has a very loyal client base. Byrne says she’s confident her establishment will survive the pandemic, but she’s not sure how and what it will look like in the future.

“It’s a very scary road right now with what’s going to be happening in Victoria and how we are going to adapt with it,” said Byrne.

Valior’s study found that the biggest distraction for people working from home is social media.

“More than one third of people, even those with children at home, said social media was their biggest distraction,” said Wettemann.

As British Columbia continues to adjust to a 'new normal' there will be winners and losers on both sides of the equation. How the future of office work will look in the future, only time will tell.