This was almost double the amount that was undertaken by people who never worked from home during 2020. 

A new analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows the significant impact of the pandemic on employees’ working hours, schedules and reward received.

In 2020, homeworkers were undertaking an average of six hours of unpaid overtime each week, regardless of whether working from home was a main, occasional or recent work-model for them.

This was almost double the unpaid overtime completed by employees who did not work from home, which stayed consistent at 3.6 hours each week. Despite this, people who never worked from home were much more likely to undertake paid overtime which also stayed steady at 3.6 hours a week.

Although the amount of overtime increased in light of the pandemic, the average weekly hours worked fell overall. For homeworking staff, this number decreased from 34.3 in 2019 to 32.3 working hours a week in 2020.

Significantly, sickness rates also fell for homeworking staff. In 2020, the absence rate for workers who work from home was only 0.9 per cent, equivalent to 2.0 days lost per worker. However, those that never worked from home had a higher sickness absence of 2.2 per cent, totalling 4.3 days lost per worker.

This has been attributed to a lower chance of exposure to germs and a higher total of people who, traditionally, may not have felt well enough to physically travel into work but felt fit enough to complete their role from home.

Pay also saw a significant change during 2020. Prior to the pandemic, people who worked mainly at home were paid on average 6.8 per cent less than those who never worked from home.

However, during 2020, this trend reversed with homeworking staff being paid 9.2 per cent more on average than their counterparts. This pattern was explained as homeworkers being better able to continue working despite lockdown restrictions.

Professions such as IT (62 per cent), professional, scientific, and technical activities (56.1 per cent) and financial services (54.2 per cent) had the highest proportion of employees working from home during the pandemic.

Andrew Mawson, founder of Advanced Workplace Associates, a global management consultancy, outlined how businesses could use homeworking to their advantage:

The ONS data shows how much workers have embraced working from home during the lockdown and desire it in the future, and the challenge employers face meeting this growing demand for flexibility. Just because people want new ways of working doesn’t mean organisations will automatically agree to it, and we’ve seen some like Goldman Sachs who want to put the genie back into the bottle.

Many leaders are struggling to work out how to adapt to the new workplace realities, but those who get it right have the opportunity to be more flexible, efficient and attractive. To do this they need to have conversations with their teams to agree new arrangements that work for the individual, the team and the organisation.

Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, commented on the reward aspect of the data:

With reward and recognition a key motivating factor for staff, snubbing certain employees based on how and where they choose to work could be extremely detrimental to businesses when it comes to talent retention. In a post-Covid workplace, employers must understand that many employees will want to retain a degree of flexible working and therefore reward and recognition policies need to evolve to appreciate individual circumstances and ensure a system of fairness.


*This data was taken from the ONS analysis here.