Implications of working from home
About half of the UK workforce work from home at least sometimes, and many more would like to (according to a recent YouGov survey).
There are real advantages to working from home in ending the need for expensive and time consuming commuting. Those who only need to visit their workplace occasionally are also able to choose where they live, and can move closer to family and friends, to areas where housing costs are lower, or simply to a location of their choice.
According to Money Supermarkets research, UK workers spend an average of 11 hours 45 minutes a week working from home, a figure that is highest in the south east (almost 15 hours) and lowest in north east England (less than 9 hours).
80% of employers say that there will be no return to pre-pandemic levels of working from offices.
But there are implications of working from home, and it’s a case of some good and some not so good.
More than two thirds of employers think that working from home will damage the career prospects of homeworkers compared to office workers. This is likely to disproportionately affect younger workers.
The view is shared by homeworkers themselves, but the pandemic has made many want to balance career with lifestyle choices, family life and environmental factors.
However there is also a consensus that homeworking can improve the prospects of women, especially those with childminding responsibilities, which is becoming less of a hindrance.
It is also agreed that it can improve the employment prospects of people with disabilities and mental health issues.
It is also true that many who have been working from home have saved money that would have been spent on travel to work and eating out.
Employers have also benefited. Most homeworkers are at least as productive as they were when working from offices. Three quarters of those who work from home online have not claimed broadband or internet costs from their employer. Office costs have been reduced along with a variety of associated costs – from office furniture and providing tea and coffee to security and office cleaning costs.
A significant proportion of employers (40%) believe that at some stage the Government will introduce a home workers tax!
Over 40% think that one of the implications of workingfrom home is a risk of British workers losing out to cheaper workers from abroad; although a slightly higher proportion don’t think that will happen.
In recent years we’ve seen industrial production shifted away to lower wage economies, and of course, call centres moved abroad. The savings can be considerable. Call centres in western Europe charge commercial clients at least £30per hour, usually more. In India, some are charging less than £4 per hour.
There is some evidence, albeit limited, that the use of homeworkers from abroad is already happening. Some large companies employ homeworkers in different time zones so that they can provide a 24 hour service.
Companies employing homeworkers in other countries are mostly based in the USA, and at the moment they prefer to employ workers in Europe and Canada. The main areas are in IT, business to business services, translation and private teaching and tuition.
There’s no doubt that reduced office working is harming some businesses in city centres, and reduced vehicle use for commuting can reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
It can also bring life back to many remote villages that have, in recent years, turned into dormitory or retirement villages.