Last year saw a big rise, but comfortable majority still work on-site
Despite a big rise in homeworking last year, about two thirds of workers did not do so at all, data from the Office for National Statistics has revealed.
A total of 35.9% of employed UK citizens worked from home to some extent over the course of 2020. This represents a big rise on the 26.5% of employees who did so at some point in 2019.
But there are still nearly two in three – 64.1% – workers who worked exclusively from their job site or other location away from home for the whole of 2020.
Those who did work from home to some extent last year worked an average of 32.3 hours per week, compared with 27.7 hours for those who did not do so. These figures decreased respectively by two and four hours as a result of the furlough programmes and other pandemic-related reasons.
Homeworkers did an average of six hours of unpaid extra work in each week of 2020, compared with 3.6 hours for those who never worked from home.
But working from home does bring with it later start times and longer breaks; in September 2020 the average day for homeworkers began at 10.45am and included an hour and 15 minutes of breaks. Employees working away from home started at 9.37am, on average, and took 43 minutes in breaks during the working day.
Start times for homeworkers got later as the year went on; in April 2020 the average was 10.15am, and the ONS claimed that the initial wave of remote working saw many employees more closely following what had been their typical hours in the office.
The statistics agency found that, before last year, employees that sometimes worked from home “were more likely to be part-time workers, female, and work fewer hours”
“In 2020, given the unprecedented increase in homeworking, the characteristics of the homeworking group changed,” the ONS added.
Last year the ICT sector had the highest incidence of homeworking, with 62% of employees in these roles having worked from their home at some point. Next on the list were professional, science and technical professions on 56.1%, and financial services on 54.2%.
At the other end of the spectrum, just 12.3% of employees in the food and accommodation sector worked from home at any point last year. Transport and storage, on 18.6%, and retail, 19.7%, also saw low incidence of homeworking.
The ONS found that “London and surrounding areas had the highest rates of working from home in 2020, with many areas in Scotland and the north having the lowest.
“Areas of note with low homeworking rates were Thurrock, Birmingham, Lincolnshire, Blackpool, South Ayrshire, and parts of Northern Ireland,” it added.
The research finds that, before 2020, the long-term trend was that those who mainly worked from home were “paid less, less likely to get a bonus, less likely to get promoted, and less likely to receive training”.
But, following the events of last year – particularly the prevalence of senior managers working from home – this may no longer be the case in the future.
“In 2020, the outcomes of each homeworking category converged in many metrics, as more people became homeworkers,” the ONS said. “Homeworkers were better able to access training in 2020 than they once were, and the pay penalty for those who worked exclusively from home reversed.”
The statistics agency’s said that its data “may suggest that people who combine homeworking with working away from home are more productive than those who never work from home”.
Our evidence suggests that the success of homeworking varies enormously between those that worked mainly at home, and those that mixed homeworking with working away from home,” it added. “This suggests flexibility towards homeworking in future might be key to its success.”