The number of people who say they usually work from home increased by 62,000 over the course of last year to reach more than four million for the first time. These findings come from a new TUC analysis published recently to mark national work from home day, organised by Work Wise UK.
The analysis shows that the number of regular home-workers has risen by over a half a million since 2007 – an increase of more than 10 per cent. Millions of other workers across the UK occasionally work from home too.
The biggest boom in home-working has taken place in the South East, where the number of home-workers has increased by 132,000 since 2007. However, people living in the South West are still the most likely to work from home, with around one in six regularly doing so.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK to have seen a fall in the number of home-workers since the recession, with less than one in ten workers currently working from home, whilst in the North East we have 128,048 home workers - an increase of 19,862 since 2007.
The structure of our economy and consequently our workplaces has changed significantly. Cultural, economic and social changes are affecting attitudes to how we balance or mix work and lifestyle, where increasing mobility and technology is shifting the acceptance or need for traditional 9-5 work patterns; replaced by more flexible ways and periods of work.
There are many benefits to home-working, provided it is properly managed. People can save time and money on costly commutes, while the increased flexibility it provides gives people more control over their working time, as well as making it easier to balance work with caring responsibilities and the school run.
Home-working is also an important way for disabled people to access the labour market. Around 650,000 people with a disability currently work from home.
However, the growth of home-working may be starting to tail off as it has barely kept up with the overall rise in employment.
Despite the clear benefits of home-working and demand from staff for more flexible ways of working, too many employers are still afraid of letting their staff work from home. I would urge employers to let staff try out home-working, as they may find it benefits both the business and workforce.
Modern home-working is good for the economy as it increases productivity, helps businesses hold on to talented staff, and allows people with caring responsibilities or a disability to access the labour market. Access to cheaper and quicker internet connection has made it increasingly easy for people to work remotely – and effectively.
Despite all these benefits, many employers still don’t trust their staff to work from home and force them to make unnecessary, time-consuming trips into the office so they can keep an eye on them. Employers need to take a more enlightened approach to home-working.
Northern TUC Regional Secretary
Issued: 26 May, 2014