National work from home day – 4million and counting

So, how many of you enjoyed the relative pleasures of working from home today – it being National Work from Home Day and all?

If you did then you were in good company as figures released today by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) reveal more than 4million people now regularly work from home – a year-on-year rise of 62,000.

But some parts of the UK do more home-working than others…

The north/south divide

The TUC analysed figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and found that there has been a 10% rise in the number of people regularly working from home since the start of the recession seven years ago- up by over half-a-million since 2007 – with millions more across the UK occasionally benefiting from being able to work remotely.

And there appears to be a bit of a north/south divide when it comes to home-working – the biggest boom has taken place in the South East, which has seen an increase of 132,000 since 2007, yet those in the South West are more likely to work from home, as around 17% of people living there regularly do.

Northern Ireland, on the other hand, has less than 10% of people working from home and is the only area in the UK that has seen a drop in the number of home workers over the last seven years.

The benefits of working from home

It’s well documented, not least in these pages, that there are many benefits to be had from home working, such as saving time and money on commutes, a better work/life balance, and an increase in morale and productivity.

It also enables those with disabilities to do work they may not otherwise be able to do with around 650,000 people with a disability currently working from home.

However, as encouraging as these figures are, this rise has barely kept up with the overall rise in employment (thought that in itself is a contentious issue given the proliferation of zero-hours contracts in the UK) and the TUC fear home working may start to tail off.

The end of the line?

Although working from home has it’s many merits, something not lost on the increasing number of employees who request remote working, it seems it’s a practice that is still met with a degree of skepticism by some employers who perhaps like to keep a tight reign on staff or think the communal office space is better for idea-generation and productivity.

The TUC, however, is employees to let staff have a go at working from home if possible, as it could have knock-on benefits for both businesses and workers.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Cheaper and quicker internet access has played a big factor in the growth of home-working in recent years.

“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.

“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 as it can benefit business, the workforce and the wider economy.”

Work Wise UK’s chief executive Phil Flaxton said: “Stronger economic growth has clearly boosted the number of people in work, but it has not yet boosted productivity, which is the real key to long-term prosperity in our very competitive world.

“I believe individual performance matters hugely and the key to achieving a more productive workforce lies very firmly in leadership and management styles. To help achieve the productivity improvements necessary, many employers need to change their outdated attitudes to home-working and embrace new ways of working in the 21st century.”

What are your thoughts? Should remote working start becoming the norm? Or is it just an excuse for people to skive off work? Let us know…

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