Nearly one in five workers want to work from home but are being prevented from doing so by their employer, claims the TUC.
Figures from a work-life balance survey by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform show 4.5 million employees say they want to work from home on a regular basis but are not allowed to do so.
The TUC claims many more workers and businesses could benefit from more flexible working patterns.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: ”Working from home is growing in popularity but millions of staff are still unable to try it out thanks to over-controlling employers.
”Too many workers are wasting their time making journeys they don’t need to, clogging our transport networks during the rush hour and adding to their carbon footprint unnecessarily, while companies are losing out on the cost and productivity benefits of home working. Surely we can be a lot smarter than that.”
The TUC says businesses can benefit from home-working by:
* Better staff recruitment and retention – home-working can widen the recruitment poll by attracting people who have traditionally struggled to find work, such as single parents and those with disabilities.
* Improved motivation and productivity – Employees are more likely to have high morale where employers are seen to take account of their needs.
* Improving the quality and reputation of the service – Good employment practices can enhance the reputation of businesses because home-working and flexible hours can extend the hours when businesses are in touch with their customers.
* Reduction of sickness absence and travel costs – Not working in an office can reduce exposure to colds and bugs, and cutting out the commute can reduce stress.
* Infrastructure cost savings – Home-working can save on car parking space, office rent and running costs. Suffolk county council cut the size of its new central services office block by a third by using home-working practices, and BT saves £2.2m per year through home-working and flexible working.
Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, a not-for-profit initiative which promotes smarter working, said: ”The nature of work is changing and an increasing number of the working population can now work remotely or from home.
”Apart from enhancing work-life balance for employees, with the added health benefits, and reducing the need to travel, working from home can significantly improve productivity, enabling organisations to reduce costs whilst improving efficiency.”