• Lee Calver
  • 20 May 2014

How many of your employees now work from home?

To mark National Work from Home Day, which took place on Friday 16 May, new findings were published, revealing that the number of people who say they usually work from home has increased by 62,000 over the course of the last 12 months to reach more than four million for the first time ever.

The findings, which arise from a new TUC analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), also show that the number of regular home-workers has risen by over 500,000 since 2007. In addition, it states that millions of workers across the UK occasionally work from home too.

According to the figures, the biggest boom in home-working has occurred in the South East, where the number of home-workers has increased by 132,000 since 2007. People living in the South West are still the most likely to work from home however, with results showing that approximately one in six regularly work from home.

Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK where the number of home workers has fallen since the recession, the research showed.

So why has working from home become such a phenomenon in the past few years?

The term ‘flexible working’ gets bandied around everywhere nowadays and it seems as though a large proportion of people in the UK are looking to restore a balance between their work and home life.

According to the TUC, there are many benefits from home-working, provided it is properly managed. People can save time and money on costly commutes, while the increased flexibly it provides gives people more control over their working time, as well as making it easier to balance work with other responsibilities such as caring duties or childcare.

Is this a bad thing for employers though?

It can be argued that the advance in technology and widespread access to high-speed internet means a large number of jobs can now be performed just as well, if not better, from the comfort of your own home.

Removing the need for a long, tiring commute and allowing employees to work from home means staff will feel refreshed and a lot happier when they start work. A happier workforce = a more productive workforce.

Despite the benefits of home-working and demand from staff for more flexible ways of working, many employers are still against the notion of allowing employees to work from home.

London Mayor, Boris Johnson, once described the home office as a “skiver’s paradise” and employers still fear that workers will take advantage of not being in an official office environment and therefore fail to work their allotted hours.

Following the release of its findings, The TUC has urged employers to let staff try out home-working, as they may find it benefits both the business and its workforce.

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.”

Phil Flaxton, Chief Executive, Work Wise UK, organiser’s of National Work from Home Day, commented:

“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.”

The research also found that home-working is an important way for disabled people to access the labour market, with 650,000 people with disability currently working from home.

What are your views on home-working? We want to hear from a wide range of people on this highly topical issue and gather a picture of the UK’s outlook on flexible working. Do you have employees who regularly work from home? If so, what benefits have you witnessed? Or have you allowed members of staff to work from home but retracted that option following a breach of trust? Alternatively, are you completely against the idea of it and would never allow your workers to work from home? We want to hear from everyone who has an opinion or a story to share. Please leave your comments below to join in our latest forum discussion.