Home working could be new normal post-pandemic

Millions of workers are experiencing home working for the very first time due to lockdown, new data from the Office for National Statistics suggests.

The data, contained in the ONS’s ‘Coronavirus and Homeworking’ report, released yesterday reveals just 5% of workers said they worked mainly from home in 2019.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Of the 32.6m in work, around 1.7m people reported working mainly from home in 2019, with around 4m working from home in the week before being interviewed for the survey
  • Around 8.7m people said that they have worked from home before – equivalent to less than 30% of the workforce.
  • Some industrial sectors, such as transportation and storage, accommodation and food services, and wholesale, retail and repair are not as open to homeworking.
  • Other industrial sectors, such as information and communication, professional, scientific and technical activities, financial and insurance activities, and real estate activities, provide far more homeworking opportunities.
  • Occupations requiring higher qualifications and experience are more likely to provide homeworking opportunities than elementary and manual occupations.
  • While younger workers are the least likely to be working from home, those who continue to work beyond State Pension age are increasingly likely to be working from home.

Commenting on the findings, Molly Johnson-Jones, co-founder of flexible working job platform Flexa said: “In a few short weeks, working from home has become the norm for millions of workers. With these figures suggesting only 30% of the UK workforce have ever worked from home, this will be the first experience for an enormous number of employees and employers alike.

“For some companies forced to make the change, they will have found themselves ill-equipped to deal with this shift.

“They don’t have the infrastructure, the communication or the culture of trust. In addition many employees may be tempted to take advantage of it as a break from the norm where they feel overworked.

“Early teething problems may be particularly acute in the North of the country, as today’s data shows workers are far less likely to have worked from home than their counterparts in London and the South East.

“Flexible working has been shown to be beneficial for people’s mental health, but during this challenging time when people’s behaviour has been curtailed, it is more important than ever that employers keep in touch with their workers through phone and video calls.

“Seeing a friendly face from work can go a long way to boosting employees’ morale while everyone gets used to this new way of working.”

Also commenting, Amanda Mackenzie OBE, CEO of Business in the Community, a charity and The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, added: “Covid-19 will change the way businesses of all sizes in all sectors work forever.

“In many respects, remote working will become synonymous with responsible working practice and corporate governance.

“Remote working through the cloud will increasingly become the norm rather than the exception.

“Firms that have traditionally been wary of remote working are now being forced to adopt it, and many will see first-hand that it doesn’t automatically result in a drop-off in productivity. 

“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the way businesses operate will be both profound and permanent.

“Continuity planning will no longer be the luxury of the world’s biggest companies but something that’s embedded in every company’s DNA and integral to its duty of care to staff.”

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