The number of people who say they usually work from home increased by 62,000 over the course of last year to reach more than four million for the first time. The findings are from a new TUC analysis published on Friday to mark national work from home day, organised by Work Wise UK.
The TUC analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics shows that the number of regular home-workers has risen by over a half a million since 2007 – an increase of more than 10 per cent. Millions of workers across the UK occasionally work from home too, says the TUC.
The biggest boom in home-working has taken place in the South East, where the number of home-workers has increased by 132,000 since 2007. However, people living in the South West are still the most likely to work from home, with around one in six regularly doing so.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK to have seen a fall in the number of home-workers since the recession, with less than one in ten workers currently working from home.
There are many benefits from home-working, says the TUC, provided it is properly managed. People can save time and money on costly commutes, while the increased flexibility it provides gives people more control over their working time, as well as making it easier to balance work with caring responsibilities and the school run.
Home-working is also an important way for disabled people to access the labour market, says the TUC. Around 650,000 people with a disability currently work from home.
The growth of home-working may be starting to tail off however, says the TUC, as it has barely kept up with the overall rise in employment.
Despite the clear benefits of home-working and demand from staff for more flexible ways of working, too many employers are still afraid of letting their staff work from home. The TUC is urging 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.”
Work Wise UK’s chief executive Phil Flaxton said: “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.”