From the TUC

Homeworking is up – now time for employers to speed up

19 May 2017, by in Working Life

Are you thinking “why wasn’t I at home today?”

As we struggle home from work, we are often driven to wonder why we are making the journey in the first place. There is a lot that can upset us – delays, congestion, thoughtless road users, having to stand on public transport and a general sense that we are paying a lot of money in order to waste a lot of time.

Today is a particularly good time to ask ourselves this question, since today marks the 12th National Work from Home Day, organised by Work Wise UK, who promote smarter working (flexible working, good homeworking and mobile working).

Employee Homeworking is on the increase

There is some good news to report, because the number of employees who usually work from home increased by 152,000 last year. This 7% increase far out-stripped the growth in employee jobs as a whole.

  • Women have seen the biggest rise: The number of women working from home has increased by 10.5% (64,000) over the past year.

However, men still account for the majority of homeworkers, with 966,000 regularly working from home in 2016, compared to 673,000 women.

  • Older employees are more likely to work from home: 1 in 13 workers in their forties and fifties work from home.

By contrast, just 1 in 36 workers (168,000) in their twenties regularly work from home.

  • The South West has the highest proportion of homeworkers: 1 in 11 workers in the South West regularly work from home. The next highest is the East of England (1 in 13), followed by the South East (1 in 14).

Northern Ireland has the lowest proportion of homeworkers in the UK, with just 1 in 33 employees saying they regularly work from home.

All these figures are based on our analysis of unpublished data from the ONS Labour Force survey.

There are now 1,639,000 homeworkers. This is an increase of 359,000 since 2005 and 42% of the increase has taken place in the past year. It could be that the pace is finally starting to pick up now, as communication technology improves and its use becomes ubiquitous.

The demand for high-quality homeworking is huge

The increase in homeworker numbers are certainly grounds for a small celebration. However, the unmet demand for homeworking is still huge, with around 4 million employees (15%) still wanting to be able to work from home.

Furthermore, a recent survey by a recruitment company reported that a surprising 55% of their candidates would like the option to be able to work at home.

More employers need to take high-quality homeworking seriously 

With the demand for homeworking likely to increase, as more and more people wonder why they are still tied to the traditional workplace when they have the ability to work at home effectively, it seems unlikely that so many employers will continue to resist the tide. The annulment this week that unemployment has fallen to 4.6% should be another reason to give them pause.

Given that employers who have adopted good homeworking policies often report personnel and productivity benefits there are grounds for optimism – but only if more employers are willing to look for the win-win gains to be had from homeworking and other forms of smarter working practices including flexitime.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Homeworking is a great option for some workers, especially those with disabilities. Businesses should seriously look at the benefits it can bring.

Allowing employees to work from home can be good for holding on to talented staff and boosting productivity.

But homeworking shouldn’t be viewed as way of cutting costs. It should always be a real choice for the workers who want it.”

Chief Executive of Work Wise UK, the organiser of National Work from Home Day, Phil Flaxton said:

“Nationally, an increasing number of employers and employees are realising that work is an activity we do, rather than a place we go to.

Attitudes are changing on how we balance or mix work and lifestyle. Increasing mobility and technology is shifting the acceptance or need for traditional nine-to-five work patterns, to be replaced by a more flexible approach to working from home.”