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Employment

1 in 3 now work from home as more employees demand flexibility

Working from home is increasingly becoming an expectation of younger workers, rather than simply an added bonus, researchers say.

One in three Brits now works from home, with the number doubling over the pandemic to 10 million.

Between the last three months of 2019, and the first three months of 2022, the number of people who identified themselves as home workers jumped from 4.7 million people (14.5 per cent of the workforce) to 9.9 million people (30.6 per cent), according to analysis of the Labour Force Survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

The ONS defines home workers as anyone who says their main place of work is their own home, the same grounds or building as their home, or different places with their home as their base.

In every region of the UK except the north-east, women switched to home working at a higher rate than men, and it was older millennials, those aged 30 to 39, who joined the home working revolution at the highest rate.

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With around 32.7 million people employed in the UK in the three months to April 2022, the news figures mean that almost one in three considers themselves to be a home worker. 

Responding to the figures, Dr Amanda Jones, lecturer in HR at King’s College London, told The Big Issue: “I think many people are surprised by this – but actually, our research indicates that in London it’s more like six in 10 that are still working from home. And figures from around the globe also show high numbers of people still working remotely.”

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Brits were first told to work from home if possible in March 2020, but it’s not just the pandemic that has caused a boom in home working, says Jones, whose research found that younger generations were already saying they wanted more flexibility and a better work-life balance than those of previous generations.

“Life is getting fuller, there are lots of dual earner couples, many with kids, people are retiring later, and time is getting tighter and more precious,” she added.

“Organisations are now less likely to offer a job for life, so employees are less willing to compromise their own goals, health and wellbeing to acquiesce to their demands. Indeed, we have seen many people say that they would now quit rather than compromise this flexibility.”

Of those who work in an office, almost half said they would threaten to quit their current job if flexibility is not provided by their employer, rising to 60 per cent in workers aged 25 to 34.

The research by Velocity Smart Technology surveyed 3,000 people and confirms that flexible working, such as working from home, is no longer considered a perk of the job but an expectation.

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Boris Johnson and other senior government ministers have repeatedly told for workers to return to offices, where the prime minister said staff were “more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas”.

Last year the government announced new proposals to make flexible working the default by making it a legal right for workers to request arrangements from day one in a job. However these measures, and the long-awaited Employment Bill they were set to be part of, were dropped. BEIS received 1,600 responses before the consultation deadline in December 2021, which it says are still under review.

A string of business leaders have weighed in to slam working from home, with Sir Alan Sugar calling home workers “workshy” and “entitled”. Tesla boss Elon Musk last month issued an ultimatum for staff at his company to return to the office or leave. 

The Netherlands recently became the  first country in the world to make working from home a legal right. Though the legislation still required the go-ahead from the Dutch senate, the parliament-approved legislation would force employers to consider employee requests to work from home if their role allows it. 

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