Working from home increased after guidance U-turn

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The proportion of employees working from home exclusively has risen after the government revised its guidance around where people should work last week.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 24% of employees have been working only from home since 22 September, compared with 21% the previous week.

The most common reason why staff worked from home over the past seven days was because their employer had asked them to (55%), although 48% did so because they were following government advice. Some 32% normally worked from home.

On 22 September, Prime Minister Boris Johnson once again told the nation to “work from home if you can” amid an increase in the number of daily Covid-19 infections.

Until then the government had been urging office workers to return to their workplaces in order to help stimulate recovery in town and city centres. The CBI had warned that previously busy business districts were beginning to resemble “ghost towns”, as few people had returned to their offices and employers considered whether their office space was necessary.

The ONS figures also suggest that the number of people intending to work from home will increase once more. Some 37% of working adults wish to do so over the next seven days if they are able to.

More than half (56%) say this was at the request of their employer, while 46% say they are following government guidance.

The proportion of workers travelling to the workplace also fell within the past week. Fifty-nine per cent of working adults travelled to work either exclusively or in combination with working from home, compared with 64% the previous week.

Half of workers say that the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting their work – the same proportion as last week.

The Centre for Ageing Better and flexible working consultancy Timewise this week launched a flexible working toolkit in recognition of the fact that the traditional nine-to-five had begun to disappear.

“We have experienced a seismic change in the UK’s working practices as a result of Covid-19. Employers have had to respond quickly and support people to work flexibly – at home and at different times,” said Centre for Ageing Better chief executive Anna Dixon.

“Many older workers want to work flexibly. It is vital to retaining and supporting over 50s workers, who may have health needs or caring responsibilities – or may simply want to find a better work-life balance. To help all of us to prepare today for our longer lives and help employers to secure the talents of a diverse workforce, flexibility must become part of the new normal.”

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