Working from home will be double pre-pandemic levels

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Employers expect that the proportion of people working from home on a regular basis once the coronavirus crisis is over will increase to 37% compared with 18% before the pandemic.

That’s according to a survey of 1,046 employers which also shows that, overall, employers believe people working from home are as productive as other workers, with 28% of employers believing the increase in home working has increased productivity or efficiency. This compared with 28% of organisations that reported the opposite effect and 37% that don’t believe there is any effect.

The research by the CIPD also suggested that employers expect the proportion of staff who work from home all the time to rise to 22% after the pandemic compared to just 9% before lockdown measures were imposed.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said: “The pandemic is going to have a long-lasting effect on how we work, with a step change in the proportion of people who work from home on a much more regular basis. This will disrupt some existing patterns of economic activity, for example spending by office workers in town and city centres is likely to drop substantially over the long-term and we will see a further shift to online retail.”

A separate report released today, one month after non-essential retail reopened, suggested that footfall in central London shops is down 73% compared to the same period in 2019. New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses across Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street and Mayfair, showed that London’s West End welcomed only 5.1 million visitors.

Retail analyst Springboard has shown that footfall levels in high streets across the UK are down 57% compared with June 2019.

While this paints a bleak picture for retail and hospitality, Cheese added that the move toward home working brings “considerable” advantage for employers and workers.

“Organisations will be able to hire people from a much wider geographic area and reduced time and money spent on commuting will take pressure off our transport infrastructure and boost spending in local communities.

“Greater use of home working will make work more accessible and sustainable for all, particularly for people with caring responsibilities and those with mobility or health concerns. This shift will support and encourage employers to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce which is good for the economy and society at large.”

Organisations reported that during lockdown the proportion of the workforce working from home continuously averaged 54%.

The CIPD believes the right to request flexible working should become a day-one right for all employees, rather than after 26 weeks as currently required. The government has pledged to consult on whether to make flexible working the default position unless employers have a good reason why it is unsuitable.

“For many people more flexible working opportunities and choice over when and where they work can give a better work-life balance and support for overall mental and physical wellbeing.

“However, many employers need to improve how they manage and support people who work from home more regularly and crucially also need to increase the range and uptake of other forms of flexible working so those people who are not able to work from home can work flexibly wherever possible in different ways. To support this wider shift to more flexible workplaces we would like to see the right to request flexible working become a day-one right.”

The research found that 44% of employers said that they are putting in place additional measures or spend to support home working. Of these, 66% plan to change their policies to enable to reflect the move to more home working and 46% plan more line management training in managing and supporting home workers.

A third of employers plan to introduce new forms of flexible working or try and increase the uptake of existing flexible working arrangements, including working from home on a regular basis (70%), always working from home (45%), part-time hours (40%), flexi-time (39%), term-time working (16%) and compressed hours (25%).

The online survey was carried out 18-30 June 2020, and the figures have been weighted and are representative of the UK business population by size, sector, industry and region.

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