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Nearly half of employed in UK worked remotely in April 2020

Covid-19 drives upsurge in home working in UK, and of those who did some work remotely, around a third worked fewer hours than usual and the same percentage worked longer hours

In more evidence of how the coronavirus outbreak has changed the working habits of the nation, with millions adapting to doing their job from home over the past few months, a study for the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that in April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home, 86% of whom did so as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the end of March 2020, the ONS launched the online Labour Market Survey (LMS), a survey of around 18,000 households per quarter. Respondents were asked questions on employment, unemployment and economic inactivity relating to a reference week one to two weeks prior to interview. In addition to being asked about their employment status, respondents were also asked if they did any work at home, and if their main reason for doing this was the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Coronavirus and homeworking in the UK: April 2020 report found that people who worked from home were equally likely to work more or fewer hours than usual. Of those who worked from home, around one-third worked fewer hours than usual (34.4%), and around one-third worked more hours than usual (30.3%). There was little variation between the percentage of men and women working from home in the reference week, with women a little more likely to have worked from home than men (47.5% compared with 45.7%). Men and women were similarly likely to cite the coronavirus pandemic as the main reason for working from home (86% and 85.9% respectively).

There are regional variations for those doing some of their work at home. More than half (57.2%) of workers living in London worked from home, while just over one-third of workers living in the West Midlands (35.3%) and Yorkshire and The Humber (37.6%) did so. Of those London residents who worked at home, 91.6% cited the coronavirus pandemic as their main reason for doing so. Conversely, the north east (76.6%) and the south west (79.1%) were the two regions where respondents were least likely to cite the coronavirus pandemic as the main reason for home working.

Occupations requiring higher qualifications and experience were more likely to provide home working opportunities than elementary and manual occupations. The first four major occupations each saw over half of their workers doing some amount of home working. Over two-thirds (69.6%) of the professional occupations did some work at home. Conversely, the last five major occupations each saw under 20% of their workers doing some amount of home working. Those working in associate professional and technical occupations were most likely to cite the coronavirus pandemic as the main reason for home working (91.1%), while those in skilled trades occupations were least likely to do so (65.0%).

Enabling all of the home working have been the UK’s broadband networks, which have coped well with the added stain of dealing with millions of extra home workers.

Commenting on the ONS statistics, and comparing them with studies that his firm had discovered, Nick Baker, broadband expert at Uswitch.com, said: “Our research found that the change has been positive for many people, with two-thirds of workers saying they are just as productive as before, or even more so. More than half of people said working from home had improved their quality of life too, with two-fifths exercising more and a third eating healthier as they ditched the commute.

“However, the shift from workplace to home hasn’t always been smooth sailing, as almost half of parents surveyed found it difficult to juggle their job and home schooling their children.”

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