New experimental analysis shows that the number of people who worked from home increased substantially from 27 per cent in 2019 to 36 per cent in 2020, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.
The figures also show that London saw the biggest rise in homeworking, rising from 31 per cent in 2019 to 43 per cent in 2020. Northern Ireland was the area of the UK to have the lowest level of homeworking – at 26 per cent.
People working in hospitality were the most likely to never work from home, at 88 per cent, according to the data. Meanwhile, IT workers were those least likely to never work from home in 2020 (38 per cent).
Homeworkers are more likely to do unpaid overtime, working around six hours a week on average compared with around 3.6 hours for those who never work from home.
The onset of the pandemic also affected homeworkers working patterns, with working times shifting to more traditional working hours, according to the data.
The analysts of the data state they use “objective indicators related to productivity that are consistent before and during the pandemic” and “the Annual Population Survey (APS) for the years 2011 to 2019, to understand pre-pandemic trends and then compare this to 2020 data”.
Andrew Mawson, the founder of global management consultancy Advanced Workplace Associates, said: “The ONS data shows how much workers have embraced working from home during the lockdown and desire it in the future, and the challenge employers face meeting this growing demand for flexibility.
“Just because people want new ways of working doesn’t mean organisations will automatically agree to it, and we’ve seen some like Goldman Sachs who want to put the genie back into the bottle. Many leaders are struggling to work out how to adapt to the new workplace realities, but those who get it right have the opportunity to be more flexible, efficient and attractive. To do this they need to have conversations with their teams to agree to new arrangements that work for the individual, the team and the organisation.
“Surveys we’ve conducted among our clients, which range from major law firms and media groups to charities, show that only 5 per cent of employees saying they are now happy to work five days a week in the office against 45 per cent before lockdown. Also, a great many people want to come into the office just two or three days a week, but on the same days – Tuesday to Thursday – meaning that buildings could resemble the Marie Celeste [an adrift and deserted ship] on Mondays and Fridays if employers don’t get it right.”
Helmey El-Aasar, sales director at SmartSec Solutions, a front-of-house corporate security provider, said: “The latest homeworking figures from the ONS are significant, for it is precisely one year since they were last published. It is safe to say much has changed since. It is inevitable that organisations will adopt a hybrid way of working where colleagues split their time between working from home and in the office. A recent report showed that seven in 10 workplaces will struggle to tempt their workforce from the comfort of their homes. Our officers have been on the front line travelling on near-empty buses or trains to manage near-empty buildings for over a year. It has taken its toll.
“However, we are now playing a part in the positive conversations our large corporate clients are having. It is now going beyond creating one-way systems and social distancing guidelines. Our front-of-house security officers will be the first face returning employees will see when they walk through that reception lobby, and that is what they are preparing for. Customer service skills and a sensitive, personable approach will be paramount. We know a great deal of empathy will be required. Security officers will guide the returning workforce towards hygiene facilities, demonstrate new procedures, and ensure social distancing is maintained. People skills have long been important in front of house, but the post-pandemic era will require sensitivity and empathy that goes beyond traditional roles.”