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Over 4.2 million people in the UK work regularly from home – the majority of them men – and a further 1.8m would like to join them, according to TUC analysis published to mark the tenth National Work from Home Day.
The Day is organised by Work Wise UK. The analysis shows the number of people regularly working from home has increased by more than 800,000 since 2005, taking the total to 4,218,699. It is based on unpublished data from the ONS Labour Force Survey which shows that the number of regular homeworkers has increased by 800,601 since 2005. The total number of people in employment has increased during the past decade, but this has been outstripped by the growth in homeworking, which has increased from 12.0 per cent of the workforce in 2005 to 13.7 per cent in 2015.
Using figures from the government’s official Work-Life Balance Survey 2013 and the ONS Labour Force Survey, the TUC estimates that a further 1.8 million people would like to work from home.
Although the South East has the most homeworkers, London has seen the greatest growth during the past decade up by over 190,000, while the South West has the highest percentage of homeworkers at 18.3 per cent.
However, homeworking in Northern Ireland has dropped by 10,000 in the past 10 years, down to 74,000, and there has been negligible growth in Wales.
The findings also show that homeworking is disproportionately taken up by men (62.8 per cent), partly because they outnumber women in self-employment. More than two-thirds of self-employed workers are men.
Work Wise UK says homeworking is less common in the public sectors than might be expected, with just 8.0 per cent in health and 7.1 per cent in education working from home, for example. It adds that the information and communications industry has above average homeworking (17.7 per cent), while other white collar industries like the professional, scientific and technical sector (16.0 per cent) and real estate (14.4 per cent) also do well.
In contrast, only 7.0 per cent of retail staff work from home, with the growth of online shopping replacing counter staff with warehouse workers.
The ability to work from home is also strongly associated with occupational seniority, with one in five managers working from home (20.1 per cent) compared to about one in fifteen workers in the elementary occupations (6.7 per cent).
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These figures show millions of British workers have adopted homeworking and are enjoying a better work-life balance, while saving time and money on costly commuting that benefits no-one.
“Although organisations that have embraced homeworking often say that it has improved retention and productivity, there are still too many employers who are afraid to let their staff try out this way of working. The TUC estimates that there could be as many as another 1.8 million people who would enjoy the benefits of working from home.
“As the labour market tightens, National Work from Home Day is a useful reminder for employers to think about keeping their employees engaged by introducing more employee-friendly forms of flexibility for those who want to change how and where they perform their work.”
Work Wise UK Chief Executive Phil Flaxton said: “While there has been a significant increase in regular homeworking since 2005, clearly more needs to be done to convince some employers that implementing new working practices can result in a win-win situation for both their business and their employees.
“Thanks to modern technology, introducing efficient flexible working processes can be done both quickly and easily, but trust in transition remains a major issue. Work is something you do, not somewhere you go, and adopting a flexible culture has been proven to cut down on wasted time and cost. Trust, and perceived impact on culture, are however the main barriers to change, not technology.
“Many organisations have already woken up to the fact that they can attract and retain talented staff by offering a flexible approach to work, and that a healthy work-life balance contributes to individual motivation and performance, business success and growth. In addition, developments in technology help support a multiplicity of working arrangements such as working from home”.