The Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on the future of home working has examined the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on office working and of business and individual attitudes to future working practices.
The study, which covers April to May and comes amid prolonged lockdown restrictions, found the proportion of working adults who did any work from home increased to 37 per cent on average in 2020 from 27 per cent in 2019.
When asked about home working, people said their work-life balance was the greatest positive, while challenges of collaboration were the greatest negative. Additionally, both businesses and individuals preferred a "hybrid" working approach – mixing home and the workplace.
Of those currently home working, 85 per cent wanted to use a "hybrid" approach, and 36 per cent thought they would continue to work from home for the majority or all their time in the future.
However, businesses painted an unclear picture in parts, with 32 per cent reporting uncertainty regarding the proportion of the workforce that would be working from their usual place of work, and 38 per cent said they expected 75 per cent or more of their staff to be at their normal place of work.
As for timings, businesses had some uncertainty of when they would return, with one third not sure, and around a fifth unsure about their workforce being expected to return to their usual place of work at all.
The findings come amid a pandemic-led sea change in attitudes towards working practices. Employment law and HR specialist Law at Work has pointed out how it has seen a 150 per cent year-on-year jump in recent weeks in enquiries from businesses looking to explore a more flexible approach to staff working patterns.
What’s more, a Scottish recruiter has stated the mass switch to home working caused by coronavirus means companies can now hire significantly more overseas-based executives.
The ONS also flagged some demographic trends among the survey’s findings, with workers with higher incomes more likely to expect a hybrid form of working. Those on lower pay cheques were more likely to expect to work exclusively from either their usual workplace or home.
Looking at age, younger workers were found to tend to expect to return to their normal place of work sooner than older workers, with 36 per cent of respondents aged 16 to 29 expecting this to happen in the next two months, compared with less than 30 per cent in all other age groups.
Additionally, women were more likely than men to report that home working gave them more time to complete work and fewer distractions, while men were more likely to report better wellbeing. Men also said home working aided the creation of new ideas, while for women this was more likely to be seen as a barrier.
Lastly, the sickness absence rate for workers doing any work from home was lower than for those having to leave the house to earn a living – at 0.9 per cent on average in 2020 compared with 2.2 per cent respectively.