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COVID-19: Working from home guidance lifted in England with immediate effect
- Legal Development 20 January 2022 20 January 2022
UK & Europe
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that in England the working from home guidance will be withdrawn immediately and other restrictions will be lifted shortly.
- The compulsory use of the NHS COVID pass will end from Thursday 27 January but venues may use them if they wish
- from 20 January for staff and pupils in secondary school and college classrooms and from Thursday 27 January they will no longer be advised for staff and pupils in communal areas of secondary schools, nor for staff in communal areas of primaries
- from 27 January for everywhere else but the government suggests that people continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where they may come into contact with other people they do not normally meet
- Self-isolation rules for people who test positive with Covid-19 remain in place for now but there “will soon be a time” when this will not be required
- Restrictions on visits to care homes will also be eased further with plans to be announced “in the coming days”
The guidance Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) has been updated to reflect the announcement but will be updated further to include more information on the changes shortly.
What should employers do to get staff back to work?
The updated guidance says: “The government is no longer asking people to work from home. People should now talk to their employers to agree arrangements to return to the office”. More detailed information will no doubt be given in due course. However, employers should now communicate their plans with their staff, including timing and phasing of the return. They may also need to consult trade unions and workplace representatives if applicable. We would suggest that employers remind themselves about their obligations to provide a safe place of work (as mentioned below) and discuss any new working arrangements with staff if they have changed.
Are any changes needed to ensure a safe place of work?
Employers should follow the government’s Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance which will no doubt be updated shortly to reflect this announcement. In any event, employers should continue to follow statutory health and safety requirements, conduct a risk assessment and take reasonable steps to manage risks in their workplace. For further information on what this means in practice, see our update COVID-19: Return to the workplace - updated guidance for employers
Workplace safety guidance is likely to change over the coming weeks and months as the health and safety risks from COVID-19 reduce. Employers should check the guidance for more information about these changes. Separate guidance applies in Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland . We will update you on these changes as and when they happen.
How does this compare to the rules in Scotland?
On 18 January the First Minister for Scotland announced that certain restrictions will lift from Monday 24 January. However, people will continue to be asked to work from home whenever possible, with employers asked to facilitate this. The guidance promises that the Scottish government will engage with businesses now about a return to a more hybrid approach from the start of February if case numbers continue to decline. For further information see the Scottish government website Omicron measures to be lifted - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
What will this change mean for employers?
The current guidance to work from home in England has been in force for just over a month, since 13 December 2021. Although this has undoubtedly been disruptive, the intervening holiday period and the abrupt reversal of the guidance has hopefully kept disruption to a minimum (unlike in previous lockdowns where working from home has extended to far longer periods).
Many office based businesses have been reassessing whether some degree of home/remote working should continue going forwards. There is no one size fits all. Some have already decided to press on with remote working and hot desking, while others are keen to see workers return to company premises. Some are still working it out. What works for one business won’t necessarily work for another – and there may even be different approaches taken across different parts of the same business.
As many employers continue to trial hybrid working models, they may face some difficult discussions and potentially even employment disputes. What work pattern is most productive and efficient for the business? How can the business ensure it continues to comply with its health and safety obligations across thousands of different workplaces that working from home creates? How can performance best be managed remotely? How should an employer respond to a permanent home working request from an employee with caring responsibilities who has been working in this way for almost two years? Hybrid working may also throw up new discrimination risks, and as employers plan for new ways of working, they could unwittingly create inequalities. For example, with it becoming more evident that women are more likely to opt for remote working, how can employers ensure that remote workers, who might be less visible, are ensured the same opportunities for progression? Employers who ignore these issues could face discrimination claims.
Employers who can navigate these complex discussions successfully, however COVID-19 evolves, could engineer competitive advantages in retaining and attracting staff, but the complex and fast-moving situation means that it is bound to be a challenging year for HR.
For more information see our articles on agile working and the government consultation on flexible working .
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On 19 January 2022, the Prime Minister announced that the Plan B contingency measures introduced to tackle the Omicron variant would be lifted, including the working from home guidance. In this briefing, we outline what is changing and what this means for employers.
Working from home
The latest round of working from home guidance came into force on 13 December 2021, with workers told that they should work from home if they could. Exceptions were made for those who could not work from home (for example, where they needed to access equipment necessary for their role, or where their role had to be completed in person). In addition, workers facing mental or physical health challenges, or those with particularly challenging home environments, were allowed to attend the workplace.
This guidance was lifted with effect from 19 January 2022 . The Working Safely During Coronavirus Guidance for Offices ( Office Guidance ) confirms that workers no longer have to work from home. The Guidance says that employers should now talk to staff to agree arrangements to return to the workplace, consulting with workers where appropriate.
The lifting of the guidance means that employers can now resume office working, on a hybrid or full-time basis. However, employers are told they should “remain responsive to workers’ needs” and consult with them about health and safety measures in the workplace. In particular, extra consideration should be given to those who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID and to those facing mental and physical health difficulties. This will include those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, disabled workers and pregnant workers. Special guidance is in place for pregnant workers.
The other changes brought about by the lifting of the Plan B restrictions are discussed below.
From 10 December 2021, face coverings were required by law in some public indoor settings, such as theatres and cinemas, but not in hospitality settings. This was in addition to the existing requirement to wear them in shops, cinemas, premises that provide close contact services, transport hubs and on public transport. However, they were not required in office settings.
These requirements were lifted on 27 January 2022 . However, people are advised to wear them in crowded and indoor spaces where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet. The Office Guidance encourages the wearing of face coverings in offices in congested areas (e.g. corridors / lifts etc).
Changes to self-isolation rules
The rules on self-isolation have changed a number of times over recent months. The current default rules are that people infected with COVID-19 must self-isolate for a period of 10 full days. However, since 17 January 2022, it has been possible to be released from self-isolation on or after Day 6, provided the individual has had negative lateral flow tests on two consecutive days (e.g. negative results on Days 5 and 6 would mean release on Day 6). You can read more about these rules here .
The Government has said it intends to scrap self-isolation altogether after the current rules expire on 24 March 2022. The legal rules are likely to be replaced with advice and guidance. Without strict legal rules in place, employers will have to consider their approach to the issue and whether someone who has tested positive for COVID and is feeling well should be prevented from attending work (this is discussed further below).
Isolation and sick pay
Currently, if an employee is legally required to self-isolate, they are entitled to be paid statutory sick pay ( SSP ), if eligible. In addition, small and medium-sized businesses can recover the cost of SSP for COVID-related sickness absences occurring after 21 December 2021.
When the self-isolation rules change as discussed above, it is likely that entitlement to SSP will also change. There are two scenarios employers will need to deal with:
- Where employees have COVID, and are too unwell to attend work, they should remain entitled to SSP. If eligible, they should also be entitled to company sick pay. In recent weeks, there have been reports of some employers (e.g. Ikea, Next, Ocado, Morrisons and Wessex Water) choosing to cut company sick pay for unvaccinated employees. However, on closer inspection, the removal of company sick pay in these cases only applied to unvaccinated staff who had tested negative for COVID, but who had to self-isolate as a contact of a positive case. (Vaccinated people are excused from self-isolation in such circumstances). It appears that company sick pay was still provided to unvaccinated staff who had tested positive for COVID.
- Where employees have COVID and feel well enough to work, it is not clear whether they will remain entitled to SSP. If such employees are able to work from home, the solution would be to allow them to do so until they recover. However, if they are unable to work from home, should you allow them to attend work or not? If you prevent them from coming to work, how would that absence be treated? If it is treated as a period of enforced sickness absence, how would it be paid? And would it count towards sickness absence management thresholds? Yet, if it is not regarded as sickness absence, how should it be treated and paid? The situation will become clearer over the coming months, but there will be some tricky issues for employers to grapple with.
Covid status checks
From 15 December 2021, certain businesses and events (nightclubs and large venues) were required by law to check the COVID status of both workers and customers using the NHS COVID pass or a negative lateral flow test.
From 27 January 2022, this requirement was lifted, although affected businesses may choose to continue with these measures on a voluntary basis.
BDBF is currently advising many employers and employees on the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, including preparing for the return to the workplace. If you or your business needs advice on any coronavirus-related matter please contact Amanda Steadman ( [email protected] ) or your usual BDBF contact.
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Employers urged to be cautious as England’s work-from-home guidance relaxed
Experts warn against ‘pendulum swing’ approach to returning after Boris Johnson announced Plan B restrictions would be scaled back from next week
by Jasmine Urquhart 20 January 2022
Experts have urged employers not to rush back to the office as the government announces its work-from-home guidance will come to an end in England, alongside other plan B restrictions, next Thursday (27 January).
Prime minister Boris Johnson also said that as part of the relaxation, face coverings will no longer be legally mandated in England from next week, although the government has advised people continue to wear them in enclosed and crowded spaces and when in contact with new people.
All requirements for organisations to require proof of vaccination and/or a negative test will also end in England at the same time.
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So far no changes have been announced by any of the devolved governments.
Addressing Parliament yesterday, Johnson said that the Omicron wave of coronavirus had “peaked nationally”, adding that hospitalisations from the virus had begun to stabilise.
Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said that the new guidance will benefit employees and businesses, as face-to-face collaboration and social interaction will benefit professionals.
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However, he encouraged employers to continue to follow Covid-secure protocols as cases remained high, adding that organisations that have effectively implemented home working guidelines should continue to do so.
"We know that home working has generally been a success, with our research suggesting, overall, it’s led to improvements in people’s productivity and work-life balance… As a result, more employers are now looking at how to embed hybrid and other flexible working arrangements into their organisation in the long term,” Willmott said.
Simon Blake, chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England, also encouraged managers to act with caution when returning to the office, warning against a “pendulum swing” between full home working and a permanent return to office working.
“The next couple of weeks could well be a transitory moment for the workplace, and what works now might not necessarily work in three months’ time, or even a year… let’s not enforce rigid boundaries and instead of thinking forever, take a whole-organisation, fluid approach to workplace wellbeing.” he said.
According to the new guidelines, those who test positive for Covid will still be required to self-isolate, however, the period of isolation was reduced to five full days on Monday (17 January), as long as they can return two negative tests on days five and six.
The government said it would also consider ending the legal obligation to self-isolate following a positive test, which is set to expire on 24 March, and instead replacing it with non-compulsory guidelines, potentially even before that date. However, this would be subject to review.
The news comes as research revealed two-thirds of employees were likely to leave their job if they continue to get limited face-to-face contact with their line managers.
The research, from Robert Walters, which surveyed 4,000 white-collar professionals, also found half (48 per cent) said that fewer meetings and less interaction with their line manager has led to a dip in their output.
More than one in five (22 per cent) reported they do not communicate with their manager when working from home, up from just 3 per cent at the start of the pandemic.
Additionally, two-thirds (62 per cent) would be put off from a job offer if it were not delivered in person (face to face or in a video meeting), while 57 per cent said that a generic email offer would put them off and a third (33 per cent) said that a voicemail message would discourage them.
Toby Fowlston, CEO of Robert Walters and Walters People, called on businesses to ensure they have “face-to-face interaction where possible.”
“Professionals vying for progression want to show initiative, adaptability, and the ability to handle responsibility by themselves – and so by nature they won’t necessarily ask for more face time with their manager as they feel it works against the point they are trying to prove,” he said.
The results also revealed that half of professionals felt a lack of contact with their line manager meant they were being overlooked for new opportunities: 37 per cent said that it would affect their progression, and a quarter (26 per cent) said it led to fewer training opportunities.
Blake said that managers should have “non-judgemental” conversations about the best way forward for employees: “There is no space for a ‘one size fits all’ approach in the post-pandemic workplace, and if we have learnt anything from the last two years, it’s that things can change overnight.
“Let’s use the experience of the pandemic to really understand what our employees need and want to create equitable workplaces. Real flexibility and flexibility ‘done well’ is not just a reaction to trends, it is part of an overall mental health and wellbeing strategy for the organisation”, he said.
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Working from home UK statistics 2023
Updated: 1 January 2023
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the numbers of people working from home in the UK has dramatically increased. That’s no surprise.
But now, with advice from the government constantly changing, how will homeworking in the UK change? Will the numbers of remote workers decrease as we continue into 2023? Will we embrace hybrid working? What will the trends look like?
Here, we have collated the information available for working from home in the UK in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 from a series of studies and surveys to provide a picture on what the WFH landscape looks like.
Remote working prior to 2020
Working from home is a modern phenomenon. Prior to 2020, working from home was the exception, not the rule.
Homeworking was relatively rare in 1981 when only 1.5% of those in employment reported working mainly at home, but by 2019 it had tripled to 4.7% ( source )
The proportion reporting that they worked exclusively at home rose from 5.7% of workers in January/February 2020 to 43.1% in April 2020 ( source )
Before the pandemic, staff went into the office an average of 3.8 days a week. ( source )
Population working from home
Working from home at start of lockdown.
When lockdown hit in March 2020, the numbers of remote workers changed overnight - mostly due to the impact of COVID-19.
In April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home ( source )
Of those who did some work from home, 86.0% did so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic ( source )
Women were slightly more likely to do some work at home than men, 47.5% and 45.7% respectively ( source )
57.2% of people living in London did some work at home ( source )
40% of respondents’ perceptions about working from home has substantially improved ( source )
5% of those respondents’ perceptions have slightly worsened ( source )
Working from home after lockdown
There’s a mixed reaction to the future of working from home in the UK in 2021 - but a trend is emerging for ‘ hybrid working ’, where employees are keen to split their work between home and the office.
Fifty of the biggest UK employers have said they have no plans to return all staff to the office full-time in the near future ( source )
21% of respondents never want to work from home in 2022 ( source )
19% of respondents want to work from home 5 days a week in 2022 ( source )
Over 55s are the most likely to want to work from home permanently ( source )
16-24 year olds favour working in the office full-time ( source )
85% of employees currently working from home want a ‘hybrid’ approach of both home and office working in future ( source )
In June 2021, 44% of those aged between 30 and 49 worked from home because of COVID-19 ( source )
38% of workers earning £40,000 or more, and 32% of those earning between £30,000 and £40,000, hybrid worked between 27 April and 8 May 2022 ( source ), as lower income earners are less likely to work from home
78% of those who worked from home in some capacity said that being able to work from home gave them an improved work life balance ( source )
47% workers recorded improved well-being from working from home in some capacity ( source )
The working from home tax relief was claimed by more than 3 million people for the 2020/21 tax year ( source )
Hybrid working - the future of working from home?
With lockdown measures now eased in many countries, employers and employees are now trying to strike a balance between pre-pandemic working in the office and a more flexible working from home culture, which has led to a recent rise in “hybrid working”, where employees spend their work time split between the office and home. What impact has this had? Can it be maintained long term? Is hybrid working productive?
80% of people leaders reported that a hybrid setup was exhausting for employees ( source )
47% of American workers prefer to work in a hybrid model ( source )
In the UK, this is even higher, with 58% of workers preferring to work in a hybrid model (updated source )
21% of respondents who had quit their jobs in 2021 reported doing so because of lack of flexible working hours or location ( source )
Office workers went to the office an average of 3.8 days per week pre-pandemic. Post-COVID, this has reduced to an average of 1.4 days per week ( source )
Just 13% of workers go into the office on a Friday ( source )
The proportion of people hybrid working as risen in 2022. 14% worked from home exclusively between 27 April and 8 May 2022, while 24% both worked from home and travelled to work ( source )
High earners are more likely to hybrid work. 38% of workers earning £40,000 or more hybrid worked between 27 April and 8 May 2022, while only 8% of those earning up to £15,000 reported hybrid working ( source )
Commuting to work
Since September 2022, there has been a surge in workers returning to their offices in Central London ( source )
As of October 2022, representative average daily demand on the London Underground was about 82% of pre-pandemic levels ( source )
As of October 2022, bus demand was around 84% of pre-pandemic levels ( source )
Cycling now exceeds pre-pandemic levels of demand at 140% of pre-pandemic levels ( source )
Differences among the days of the traditional working week have been exacerbated since the pandemic, with Tuesday to Thursday now having a relatively higher difference to Mondays and Fridays ( source )
How long have people been working from home?
Some people are seasoned professionals when it comes to working from home, others have only started to embrace homeworking in the past few years. As we can see from a 2020 survey, however, most remote workers around the world had only done so since the start of COVID-19:
56% of respondents have worked remotely for less than a year
21% have worked remotely for less than 5 years
14% have worked remotely for less than 10 years
7% have worked remotely for over 10 years
1% could not respond ( source )
Productivity of remote workers
It’s not clear how much working from home improves the productivity of workers, but those who’ve found remote working beneficial for their productivity levels want to remain working from home in the future. In fact, many have found that they’ve actually worked longer hours because they’re at home.
40.9% of homeworkers reported that they were able to get as much work done in June 2020 as they were six months earlier ( source )
28.9% said that they got more done, while 30.2% said that their productivity had fallen ( source )
65.5% of employees who reported that they were able to produce much more per hour while working at home in lockdown wanted to work mainly at home in the future ( source )
30% report an increase in their hours whilst working from home ( source )
55% report that they concentrate better working from home ( source )
80% would recommend working at home to a friend ( source )
80% are able to accomplish all their tasks remotely ( source )
How much work can respondents do at home?
Working from home and mental health.
Employee wellbeing is important, whether they’re in the office or at home. It’s been found that people are generally happier working from home because it allows for more flexibility, but there has been struggles when it comes to communicating and collaborating with teammates.
81% of younger workers say they would feel more isolated without time in the office ( source )
56% reported an increase in happiness levels when working ( source )
48% reported they need to communicate more to demonstrate their value ( source )
60% reported that they feel less connected to colleagues ( source )
30% have found it difficult separating their home lives from their work lives ( source )
29% of organisations have introduced additional resources to support employees’ physical and mental wellbeing ( source )
The biggest struggle with working remotely is not being able to unplug, followed by difficulties with collaboration and communication ( source )
The most named benefit of working from home is flexible scheduling, followed by the lack of commute ( source )
Working from home and attire
The increase in working from home seemingly brought in a whole new fashion trend - comfy working from home clothes. Many workers embraced - and continue to enjoy - the benefits of a more relaxed outfit when working from home. But some have argued against the typical WFH dress code. What do you think?
89% of employees said “absolutely not” to formal dress codes for remote work
65% of managers think employees who work from home should dress smarter
55% of managers think remote workers should dress more smartly on video calls
53% of employees say they dress differently for working in the office versus working at home
48% of employers said they were considering a formal dress code for hybrid work
42% of employees said having a formal dress code introduced would cause them to look for a new job ( source )
WFH statistics by industry
As expected, the popularity and success of working from home differs depending on the type of work and type of business, with those working in IT finding it easiest to work from home.
IT and telecoms professional are most likely to work from home full-time ( source )
Healthcare employees are least likely to work from home ( source )
The larger the business, the more likely it is that employees are working from home full-time ( source )
Where homeworkers work
Lucky homeworkers already had an office to use when lockdown and subsequent work from home requests struck. However, many WFHers have had no option but to use another room for work.
28% of respondents work in their study ( source )
27% of respondents work from their living room ( source )
17% of respondents work in their bedroom ( source )
The average remote working day starts at 8.45am and finishes at 5.22 pm ( source )
Where do respondents work in their house?
Benefits of working from home.
There are more people working from home than ever, whether or not by choice. There are a number of advantages to homeworking in the UK, according to those who do:
The main benefit is flexible scheduling, according to 50% of respondents
The second main benefit is a lack of commute, according to 43% of respondents
34% find that working from home allows them to look after family, pets, ageing or unwell relatives better
33% love the savings that WFH brings
Another benefit is reduced anxiety/stress, according to 32% of respondents
25% cited improved health, whether it’s mental, physical or spiritual
Reduced office politics is another big benefit to working from home, according to 19% of respondents
18% state that homeworking gives them the freedom to travel or relocate entirely ( source )
Disadvantages of working from home
Despite the flexibility of working from home, there are times when remote workers struggle to manage their work-life balance. Here are some of the cons teleworkers around the world have when working remotely in 2021:
27% struggle to unplug at the end of the day
16% have difficulties with collaboration and communication
16% experience loneliness
15% have distractions at home
12% struggle to stay motivated
7% find it challenging working in different timezones to their teammates ( source )
The rise of videoconferencing
Along with the sudden rise of working from home, the use of videoconferencing apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet has dramatically increased in the last few years.
How many users downloaded Zoom at the start of the pandemic?
In February 2020, there were just under 5 million downloads of the Zoom app (on iOS and Android) globally. By March 2020, this had surged to 26.9 million downloads, according to Prioriti Data ( source ).
What were the leading videoconferencing platforms used in 2020?
Zoom - 50.3% of respondents
Microsoft Teams - 12% of respondents
Facebook Live - 9.4% of respondents
Instagram Live - 7.3% of respondents
GoToWebinar - 5.8% of respondents
YouTube Live - 5.2% of respondents
On24 - 4.7% of respondents
WebEx - 1% of respondents
At the onset of the pandemic, Zoom was by far the most used videoconferencing platform compared to similar counterparts, like Teams and WebEx ( source ). This has led to the rise of the so-called “Zoom fatigue” .
Round up of working from home statistics
Scroll along the charts above.
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Is hybrid working here to stay?
Almost half of working adults were working from home at times during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but what will business as usual look like with restrictions lifted?
23 May 2022
Most people who took up homeworking because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic plan to both work from home and in the workplace (“hybrid work”) in the future, according to data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN).
Workers were asked about their future plans in February 2022, after government guidance to work from home when possible was lifted in England and Scotland. More than 8 in 10 workers who had to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic said they planned to hybrid work.
Since then, the proportion of workers hybrid working has risen from 13% in early February 2022 to 24% in May 2022. The percentage working exclusively from home has fallen from 22% to 14% in the same period. So, what does the future of homeworking look like?
The proportion of people planning to spend most of their working hours at home has risen
In February 2022, 84% of workers who had to work from home because of the coronavirus pandemic said they planned to carry out a mix of working at home and in their place of work in the future.
While the proportion of workers who planned to hybrid work at all has not changed much since April 2021, that hybrid working pattern has shifted more in favour of spending most working hours at home.
In February 2022, the most common hybrid working pattern that workers planned to use was working mostly from home, and sometimes from their usual place of work. 42% reported this, which is an increase from 30% in April 2021. Meanwhile, the proportion who planned to split their time equally between work and home, or work mostly from their place of work and occasionally from home, has fallen.
The proportion who planned to return to their place of work permanently fell from 11% in April 2021 to 8% in February 2022.
The proportion of homeworkers planning to work mostly from home rose 12 percentage points between April 2021 and February 2022
Future plans of workers who worked from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, great britain, 21 to 25 april 2021 and 3 to 13 february 2022.
Download the data for future working plans (XLSX, 18KB)
The proportion of people hybrid working has risen in 2022
In spring 2022 (27 April to 8 May), when guidance to work from home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was no longer in place in Great Britain, 38% of working adults reported having worked from home at some point over the past seven days.
Comparing data sources on working from home The proportion of people who work from home is captured in multiple surveys. Our blog about these different data sources and to what extent they are comparable can be found here.
Previous analysis of business and individual attitudes to homeworking was also published in Summer 2021.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, one in eight working adults reported working from home in the week prior to interview (12%). However, this is from a separate survey not directly comparable with more recent figures.
During 2022, the proportion of workers both working at home and at their usual place of work (“hybrid working”) has been rising, while the proportion of those working from home exclusively has fallen. Around one in seven working adults (14%) worked from home exclusively between 27 April and 8 May 2022, while nearly a quarter (24%) both worked from home and travelled to work.
However, travelling to work exclusively has been the most common working pattern since national restrictions were lifted, with 46% of workers doing this in late April and early May 2022.
The proportion of workers hybrid working has risen slightly during spring 2022
Percentage of working adults travelling to work, great britain, january 2021 to may 2022.
- Due to changes in the wording of the survey, there is a break in the time series from the period 30 March to 10 April 2022. Data before this period cannot be directly compared with data from this period onwards.
Download the data for adults travelling to work (XLSX, 19KB)
In March 2022, those who reported working from home in some capacity were asked why they had done so. The most common reason given was working from home being part of workers’ normal routine (62%), suggesting they have adopted homeworking long-term. Some workers may have already done so before the coronavirus pandemic.
High earners are more likely to hybrid work
Hybrid and homeworking increased by income bracket. More than a third (38%) of workers earning £40,000 or more hybrid worked between 27 April and 8 May 2022, meaning they both worked from home and travelled to work in the latest week. Workers in this income group were the only ones for whom hybrid working was the most common working pattern. They were also more likely than other income groups to work from home exclusively.
Lower earners were less likely to report hybrid working. Lower earners who reported hybrid working between 27 April and 8 May 2022 included:
- 8% of those earning up to £15,000
- 24% of those earning between £15,000 and £20,000
- 21% of those earning between £20,000 and £30,000
- 32% of those earning between £30,000 and £40,000
Our previous analysis of how adaptable different jobs are to remote working also found that higher earners (including occupations such as financial managers, directors and programmers) are more likely to be able to work from home. In contrast, occupations with lower average earnings, such as gardeners, carpenters and mechanics, were less likely to be able to work from home.
Hybrid work was more common among higher earners
Percentage of working adults, by income, great britain, 27 april to 8 may 2022.
Download the data for place of work by income (XLSX, 15KB)
Travelling to work was the most common working pattern for all income group earning up to £40,000, and was most common among the lowest paid individuals. 6 in 10 (62%) workers paid up to £15,000 per year travelled to work exclusively.
The youngest and oldest workers were least likely to hybrid work
Workers aged 30 to 49 years were the most likely to report hybrid working between 27 April and 8 May 2022, with 29% reporting doing so.
Hybrid working was most common among workers aged 30 to 49 years
Percentage of working adults, by age, great britain, 27 april to 8 may 2022.
Download the data place of work by age (XLSX, 15KB)
The proportion of people who reported working from home exclusively was similar between age groups, with the highest proportion among those aged 16 to 29 years (16%), and the lowest proportion among those aged 70 years and over (10%).
Travelling to work exclusively was the most common working schedule for those aged between 16 and 69 years, with more than half of workers aged 16 to 29 years and aged 50 to 69 years doing so.
Three-quarters of home and hybrid workers reported improved work life balance
More than three-quarters (78%) of those who worked from home in some capacity said that being able to work from home gave them an improved work life balance in February 2022. Half reported it was quicker to complete work (52%) and that they had fewer distractions (53%). Almost half also reported improved well-being (47%).
The most common benefit of working from home was improved work life balance
Percentage of homeworkers reporting advantages, great britain, 3 – 13 february 2022.
Source: Office for National Statistics – Opinions and Lifestyle Survey
Download this chart the most common benefit of working from home was improved work life balance.
Younger workers aged 16 to 29 years were less likely than those aged 30 years and over to report experiencing fewer distractions when homeworking. Just under a third of those aged 16 to 29 years reported fewer distractions (32%), compared with more than half of those aged 30 to 49 years (56%) and those aged 50 to 69 years (60%).
Previous analysis from January 2022 found almost half of homeworkers (46%) also reported seeing their spending decrease since working from home . While the majority of homeworkers reported an increase in their spending on utility bills (86%), half said they spent less on fuel and parking for commuting (50%), and two-fifths said their spending on commuting on public transport had reduced (40%).
However, 8% of homeworkers reported no advantages.
The most common disadvantage experienced by homeworkers was difficulty in working with others, with 48% of homeworkers reporting this in February 2022. A little over a quarter also reported more distractions when working from home (26%). Nearly a third (31%) reported no disadvantages at all.
The most common safety measure workers said they wanted when they went into their place of work was ventilation, such as open windows, followed by enhanced cleaning procedures (69% and 66% of respondents, respectively).
Homeworkers were also asked which days they worked from home between 27 April to 8 May 2022. There were no significant differences in the proportion of people with access to homeworking who were doing so on each weekday.
Most information and communication businesses plan to use homeworking permanently
Overall, the proportion of businesses reporting using or intending to include homeworking as a permanent business model increased slightly from 16% in autumn 2020 to 23% in early April 2022. This varied significantly by industry.
More than half (54%) of businesses in the information and communication industry said they were using, or intended to use, increased homeworking as part of a permanent business model in early April 2022. This was only the case for 3% of businesses in the accommodation and food services industry, and 5% of businesses in the construction industry, which are less adaptable to homeworking.
Information and communications businesses are the most likely to be planning to adopt homeworking permanently
Percentage of businesses using or planning to use increased homeworking as a permanent business model, businesses not permanently stopped trading, broken down by industry, weighted by count, uk, 4 to 17 april 2022.
Source: Office for National Statistics – Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS)
Download this chart information and communications businesses are the most likely to be planning to adopt homeworking permanently.
Industries that saw the largest increases in the proportion of businesses reporting that they use or would be using homeworking as a permanent business model between November 2020 and April 2022 included the:
- information and communication industry (23 percentage point increase)
- education (private sector and higher education businesses only) industry (20 percentage point increase)
- professional and scientific activities industry (12 percentage point increase)
- arts, entertainment and recreation industry (11 percentage point increase)
Information and communication businesses reported the biggest increase in businesses using, or planning to use, homeworking permanently
Percentage of businesses using, or planning to use, homeworking as a permanent business model, businesses not permanently stopped trading, broken down by industry, weighted by count, uk, 16 to 29 november 2020 and 4 to 17 april 2022.
- In November 2020, businesses were asked if they intended to use increased homeworking moving forward and in April 2022 they were asked if they were currently using or intending to use homeworking.
Download the data for businesses using homeworking (XLSX, 18KB)
The most common reason for using or planning to use homeworking as part of a permanent business model (among businesses who reported this) was improved staff well-being (60%), followed by reduced overheads (43%) and increased productivity (41%).
Improved staff well-being was the most common reason for businesses using, or planning to use, homeworking permanently
Reasons for adopting homeworking as a permanent business model, businesses not permanently stopped trading, weighted by count, uk, 4 to 17 april 2022.
Download this chart Improved staff well-being was the most common reason for businesses using, or planning to use, homeworking permanently
Statistical bulletin | Released on 10 March 2023
Social insights on daily life and events, including the cost of living, well-being and shortages of goods from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN).
Article | Released on 14 June 2021
Analysis of the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on office working and of business and individual attitudes to future working practices.
Article | Released on 17 May 2021
Investigating the role of good management before and during the pandemic, with a special focus on the adoption of homeworking and online sales. Part of the Economic Review: May 2021.
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- International edition
Out of office? How working from home has divided Britain
More than a third of the UK’s office-based workforce is still working from home to the anger of some bosses – and politicians. Is hybrid working the new normal, or can firms tempt employees back full-time?
J ulie worked “crunching numbers” for the government from home for most of the pandemic, before recently returning to her desk in Whitehall two days a week. The civil servant, in her late 20s, says she was enjoying “the camaraderie of being back working with colleagues”. But then she found a message had been left on her desk while she was at a meeting with her bosses.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is leaving this note for civil servants who aren’t at their desks… pic.twitter.com/7KzBcGKVJP — Dino Sofos (@dinosofos) April 22, 2022
“Sorry you were out when I visited,” read the note left by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency. “I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon. With every good wish.”
Over a post-work grapefruit gin and tonic at the Two Chairmen, a Westminster pub favoured by civil servants, she says receiving Rees-Mogg’s note has made her reconsider her dream of a long career in public service. “I’d love to tell him where to shove his good wishes,” she says. “We’ve all been working our socks off throughout the pandemic and now he’s leaving notes implying we’re not working if we’re not at our desks.
“And, this from the multimillionaire MP who [appeared to have] nodded off in parliament ,” Julie (not her real name) says to the agreement of colleagues. They are drinking outside the pub on a recent Wednesday evening – which has become the new night for after-work drinks with so many people only in the office on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays (sparking the acronym Twats).
Battles similar to that between Rees-Mogg and civil servants are being played out in offices across the country. While many staff are happy to return to the office, managers in some companies are trying to cajole or pressurise workers back to their desks full-time.
It is now four months since Boris Johnson told civil servants that they “need to show a lead and make sure … everybody gets back to work”. But more than a third of the UK’s office-based workforce is still working from home (at least for part of the time), according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Fewer than one in 10 say they want to return to their desks five days a week. Hybrid is officially the new normal, according to the government’s statisticians.
The ONS said the most common reason given for home working was because it had become “part of workers’ normal routine”, suggesting they “have adopted home working long-term”.
Going back to the office is less popular in the UK than in Europe, according to travel figures compiled by Google’s Mobility report. It showed that last week UK commutes were down 22% compared with pre-pandemic levels, while nearly all Europeans seem to be back at their desks, with Spain and France commutes down 9%, Germany 7% and Italy 6%.
Workers in London appear to be the most sluggish about returning. South Western Railway, which runs commuter-heavy trains from Surrey and Hampshire into London Waterloo, the UK’s busiest railway station, says that rush-hour arrivals have only recovered to 50% of the number pre-pandemic. The number of passengers on the tube remains at 70% of pre-Covid levels, according to Transport for London figures. Across the country, rail passenger numbers have returned to about three-quarters of pre-coronavirus levels, according to the latest Department for Transport data.
Even train industry bosses are still working from home. The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) is the industry body “encouraging businesses and commuters to take the train and get the country back on track”. Yet as of 1 June on its website, it continued to tell its own staff: “All we ask is that you do a minimum of two days a week in the office; the rest of your time can be working from home.”
A recent newspaper report said that the RDG’s chief executive, Jacqueline Starr, had been taking the train to the body’s London headquarters just twice a week on average, spending most of her time working from home in Somerset. The RDG disputes this. A spokesperson said that “some weeks [Starr] works from the office three, four or even five days a week”.
Bosses say they want staff back within sight because they are more productive in the office and it’s harder to collaborate and be creative with colleagues over endless video calls. Many workers, however, say they get much more done at home without gossiping and other office distractions.
Three-quarters of people polled by the ONS said working from home has improved their work-life balance, as well as allowing greater flexibility for working parents and big savings on commuting (in money and time). There is an age divide, with younger people and recent hires more likely to be keen to be in the office to learn from more experienced colleagues and to make it easier to get noticed. Older people who are more established in their careers are, generally, less concerned about presenteeism.
“Hybrid working is not in principle wrong, but unfortunately we see problems with the Passport Office, we see problems with DVLA [the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency], some government services not being provided in the way they should be,” Rees-Mogg told the Guardian during a tour of border controls at Eurotunnel in Folkestone. “And so getting people back, getting people to work to their contractual terms, to ensure that we are providing the services that the British voter expects is important, or we don’t need the office space.”
It is certainly not just the government re-evaluating its property portfolio. A survey by the flexible office space provider Regus found that 69% of companies are planning to reduce their office footprints – which would imply most have accepted the future of work is hybrid. The City of London has announced plans to “repurpose” office buildings left empty by the pandemic into at least 1,500 new homes by 2030. The new homes would represent a 20% increase on the current 7,850 residential units and mark a sharp change in direction. Just seven new homes were built in the Square Mile between April 2017 and March 2018.
One person who thinks this shift to hybrid work is no bad thing is Nick Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University in California, who has been studying the efficiency of home working since well before the pandemic struck. He says the science shows working from home makes staff more productive – and happier.
“Many bosses want everyone back in the office every day because they think that staff are most efficient when all in together,” he says. “All this stuff Rees-Mogg and Boris [Johnson] are saying about people not really working properly unless they’re in the office is disproved by the research.”
As early as 2015, he published research showing that in a study of 16,000 call centre staff, those who worked from home were 13% more efficient than their office-based colleagues. The paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics found that the WFH team were more productive as they took fewer breaks, were sick less often and put in more calls an hour as they didn’t get distracted by tea breaks and water-cooler moments.
Yet the prime minister told the Daily Mail, which has been running a campaign against creeping WFH culture, that his “experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing”. Bloom, who previously worked in Whitehall, says this is “pure dog-whistle politics”.
“They [Rees-Mogg and Johnson] are playing to the crowd. I assume they have sat down with advisers and figured out attacking WFH is popular with voters they need,” he says. “It’s popular rhetoric with Brexit supporters and non-graduates who are likely to be working frontline jobs.”
The Trades Union Congress (TUC), the unions’ umbrella body, has warned that working from home risks creating a “new class divide” as frontline workers in supermarkets and hospitals, mechanics and other customer-centric jobs do not have the option to work from home. Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, says: “Everyone should have access to flexible working. But while home working has grown, people in jobs that can’t be done from home have been left behind. They deserve access to flexible working, too. And they need new rights to options like flexitime, predictable shifts and job shares.”
The ONS found this week that 23% of workers earning £40,000 or more are still working from home five days a week and a further 38% are in a hybrid pattern, splitting their time between the office and home. But just 6% of people earning £15,000 or less are working from home every day, and only 8% have hybrid working privileges.
Victoria Robinson, a partner at PwC, who advises firms on adapting to WFH and hybrid working, says it’s “unrealistic and unwise” for employers to force workers back to the office full-time.
“This is not a temporary blip; the pandemic has led to a permanent change in working practices and the office as a form of control is gone for ever,” she says. “We’re in the midst of a ‘great resignation’, with more a fifth of workers expecting to change jobs in the next year.
“The war for talent has well and truly arrived,” she says, and it is employers who have to make sure they have an “attractive employee value proposition” to retain and attract the best workers. “Employees are telling us in one of the largest ever surveys of the workforce that what they really want is more flexibility,” she says. “Granting that keeps staff happy.”
While PwC was one of the first big companies to give staff a cash incentive of £1,000 to encourage people to come back to the office last autumn , the firm is now promoting an “empowered flexibility” model in which employees are expected to spend 40-60% of their time “co-located with colleagues”. All its 22,000 UK staff have also been given Friday afternoons off throughout the summer.
Such examples are instructive. While endorsing hybrid working, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development cautions that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Claire McCartney, the CIPD ’s resourcing and inclusion adviser, says “many employers are reporting productivity improvements”, but some have a less favourable view. “Companies and employees need to work together to find the right balance.” This is the time to get teams all to agree on “some principles of how much home working is appropriate”.
There are also concerns about the potential mental health impacts of working from home. Research by management consultancy firm McKinsey found that working from home had actually increased “burnout” rates among all employees as they struggled to juggle their careers and family lives, and this was particularly the case for women. The survey of 65,000 employees found that the gap between male and female burnout rates nearly doubled, with 42% of women reporting burnout compared to a third of men.
The big global banks Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan were among the most dogmatic in ordering all staff back to the office after complaining that it was impossible to “hustle” from home. But the banks’ bosses have struggled to enforce the policy and have been forced to relent over fears of losing top talent.
Goldman Sachs’s chief executive, David Solomon, said “remote work is not ideal for us, and it’s not a new normal”, and predicted in February 2021 that it would be “an aberration that we’re going to correct as quickly as possible”.
A year later, however, less than half the bank’s employees were regularly turning up to its New York headquarters, forcing Solomon, who is a club DJ in his spare time , to again plead with staff to come back.
“The secret sauce to our organisation is, we attract thousands of really extraordinary young people who come to Goldman Sachs to learn to work, to create a network of other extraordinary people, and work very hard to serve our clients,” he said in an interview with Forbes magazine. “Part of the secret sauce is that they come together and collaborate and work with people that are much more experienced than they are.”
Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase’s chief executive, said working from home “doesn’t work for spontaneous idea generation. It doesn’t work for culture.”
The wife of one of his top bankers “sent me a nasty note about: ‘How can you make him go back?’”, Dimon told a Wall Street summit in May 2021. “But that’s life.” But JP Morgan also struggled to persuade bankers in New York and London back to their desks, despite tracking swipecard logs and managers reportedly “putting the fear of God” in people who didn’t turn up enough. Dimon finally relented last month and said 40% of the bank’s 270,000 employees could work as few as two days a week from the office. In his annual letter to shareholders, he said “it’s clear that working from home will become more permanent in American business”.
The London law firm Stephenson Harwood is allowing its staff to work from home 100% of the time – but only if they take a 20% pay cut. “Like so many firms, we see value in being in the office together regularly, while also being able to offer our people flexibility,” a spokesperson said.
On the popular law industry website RollOnFriday, one Stephenson Harwood lawyer said the “100home80pay” policy was “a total gamechanger”. “I get to live in Bath and work for a City firm”, earning more than at their former regional firm “even after the 20% discount”.
“The best bit, though, is that I can be a better dad to my daughter and a better husband to my wife. For context, I work in the PE [private equity] team and spent the last week working hard to get a transaction over the line but I did not miss a single bath time – neither my daughter’s nor my own!” However, other Stephenson Harwood lawyers complained that it was unfair to pay people different amounts for doing the same amount of billable hours.
Google went for the carrot – rather than stick – tactic to get its employees back to work at its vast Googleplex headquarters in Silicon Valley by hiring the R&B artist Lizzo to perform a private concert.
“We’ve had a long two-and-a-half years of protecting others and ourselves but also being very disconnected,” Lizzo told the thousands of Googlers , who had been ordered to go back to the office three days a week. “Thank you for being back. Thank you for surviving. Google: we back, bitch.”
Bloom, the Stanford professor, says early reports show Google workers are mostly following the mandate. “Getting Lizzo works, but it’s hardly a permanent solution. What next: Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber?” he asks. “The big reason people want to come back is to socialise with colleagues. Really, the best solution is to make the office a nice place.”
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New ‘work from home’ guidance: should I return to the office and what are my rights?
Workers in England have been told they no longer need to work from home
Boris Johnson has scrapped guidance that urged Britons to "work from home" where possible, as Plan B measures aimed at tackling the spread of Covid-19 will no longer be in place from Thursday 27 January in England.
Workers were told to leave the office in favour of remote working in December 2021 when the spread of the omicron variant triggered increased restrictions from the Government.
However, the Prime Minister will no longer ask workers in England to stay away from the office and other work sites where possible.
“People should speak to their employers about arrangements for returning to the office,” Mr Johnson said.
Employers will have the power to decide whether it is necessary for staff to be physically present at work or if they can continue working from home where they choose to.
Here are your rights when it comes to flexible working:
What is the official guidance?
In England, the official guidance to work from home where possible has ended and workers will be able to head back to the office.
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told workers to continue to work from home where they can.
The devolved governments of Wales and Northern Ireland also asked citizens to avoid the office where possible.
What should my employer do to protect me at work?
The Government has removed all limits on how many people can meet at one time in workplaces, along with all social distancing measures. This means businesses do not have to keep workers and customers separated from people they do not live with.
Employers that do ask workers to come in have been told to put in place a number of measures to protect them from contracting coronavirus, such as keeping offices well ventilated.
The measures can be found on the Government website .
Can I ask my employer for flexible working?
Yes, all employees have the right by law to request flexible working, which can include working from home. The only requirement is that they have worked for the employer for at least 26 weeks.
Employers can turn these requests down only if they have reasonable cause to do so, for example if the type of work involved cannot be done from home. They can refuse applications as long as they have a "good business reason".
Alexandra Mizzi of Howard Kennedy, a legal firm, said employers often used the potential impact on performance as a reason to refuse working from home requests.
“However, they will find it much harder to justify refusal when home working has worked out fairly well,” she added.
Can I claim tax relief or an allowance for working from home?
The Government website states that you are able to claim tax relief for "additional household costs" if you have to work from home on a regular basis - either for all or part of the week.
Those who are eligible can claim tax relief for gas and electricity, metered water and business phone calls.
Applicants cannot claim for the entirety of the bill - just for that which relates to work - and you are not eligible if you choose to work from home.
The gov.uk site states that you can apply for tax relief on £6 a week (for which you will not need to keep evidence of your extra costs), or the exact amount of extra costs you have incurred above the weekly amount (which will require documentation such as receipts, bills or contracts). You will then get tax relief based on the tax rate you pay.
This article has been updated with the latest guidance.
Do you prefer to work in the office or at home? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below
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Homeworking and spending during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, UK: April 2020 to January 2022
Examines the effect of homeworking on individual finances, spending, and the key items driving changes.
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When does work from home guidance end in the UK?
Boris johnson repeals social restrictions for england as threat from omicron variant wanes, article bookmarked.
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Boris Johnson has announced that his government’s “ Plan B ” social restrictions for dealing with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in England are to end.
Speaking in the House of Commons, the prime minister said that, from Thursday 27 January, guidance on mask-wearing in public places and presenting Covid passes to enter crowded venues will be scrapped as the New Year rise in infections continues to wane without having resulted in the mass hospitalisations experts had feared.
Work from home guidance will meanwhile be lifted immediately, with people are no longer encouraged to work remotely if possible, which has been the official guidance since 8 December 2021.
The decision to bring back the working from home instruction was not taken lightly last month as the adverse impacts of the policy on the mental health and wellbeing of individuals is well documented, as is its detrimental effect on businesses, particularly office-adjacent services like cafes, restaurants, pubs, dry cleaners and gyms.
Many offices around the country had welcomed staff back to their desks for around two-to-three days per week between the initial easing of restrictions on 19 July - once known as “Freedom Day” - and the arrival of Omicron.
- Covid news - live: Work from home guidance ends as government hopes to see isolation rules scrapped in March
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The reversal came as a blow to many people who were delighted to be reunited with their colleagues in person after a year of Zoom meetings and Slack messages conducted in isolation from spare rooms and kitchen tables.
Taking time out from the firestorm still raging over the Downing Street “Partygate” scandal, Mr Johnson told the Commons that he also hopes to remove the requirement to self-isolate from 24 March, saying: “There will soon come a time when we can remove the legal requirement to self-isolate altogether, just as we don't place legal obligations on people to isolate if they have flu.
“As Covid becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance, urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others.”
Responding, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the prime minister of being “too distracted to do the job”.
“The 438 deaths recorded yesterday are a solemn reminder that this pandemic is not over,” Sir Keir said.
“We need to remain vigilant, learn the lessons from the government's mistakes, with new variants highly likely we must have a robust plan to live well with Covid.”
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