More than a third of working adults in Great Britain spent at least part of their time working from home this spring, an official survey of working patterns shows, with the proportion of people hybrid working growing even as Covid restrictions eased.
More than four in five workers – 84% – told the Office for National Statistics (ONS) they wanted to continue splitting their time between home and the office after the pandemic, while the ONS also found hybrid working patterns had shifted towards employees spending more working hours at home.
Ever since the pandemic shook up working patterns and location, the majority of employees have been demanding more flexibility, in marked contrast to the government’s recent push to bring workers back to city centre desks to boost the service businesses dependent on trade from passing office workers.
The Brexit opportunities minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg, was widely criticised after it emerged he had toured government departments to monitor how many civil servants were present, leaving notes on empty desks. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson claimed staff working from home might be easily distracted by making coffee and eating cheese, as he had, adding that he believed people are “more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas” when surrounded by colleagues.
The ONS found improved work-life balance was reported to be the main benefit of working from home for at least some of the week, cited by 78% of the workers who split their time between office and home.
Meanwhile, half (52%) of hybrid workers told the survey they found it quicker to complete their work at home, mostly because there were fewer distractions, while almost half (47%) reported improved wellbeing as a result of increased home working.
The Bank of England is one of the employers that will be forced to accept hybrid working on a permanent basis, according to its governor, as it faces demands for remote working from new recruits.
Andrew Bailey told the podcast Jimmy’s Jobs of the Future that while he wanted to see people return to the office in greater numbers, there was an expectation among skilled jobseekers that home working would form part of their employment at the central bank.
“As employers we are all having to face the fact that we are having to recruit people in a job market where that is increasingly part of the work-life balance,” Bailey said.
“It has to be said that organisations have proved you can do more things with home working than you thought you could.”
However, Bailey also stressed the importance of workers spending some time in the office to ensure more experienced colleagues could pass on skills to younger members of staff.
The Bank’s governor faced criticism last week, including from a Conservative former cabinet minister, after it was revealed the central bank allowed its staff to work from home for four days a week.
Liam Fox told the Daily Mail that the Bank should be doing all it could to help the economy, adding that it seemed “strange” staff were largely not in their place of work.
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Bailey, who said he recognised the Bank had come under fire in some quarters for a slow return to the office, stressed he would try to find “a balance” between insisting staff attend in-person meetings in Threadneedle Street and working from home.
“I do think you get benefits from having face-to-face contact that you don’t get on the screen. And how do you make the staff who join us get the same benefits that we all had working with and interacting with people?”
He said he was worried about the ability of new staff and especially younger staff “who for the last two years it has been far more difficult to acquire that knowledge of how things are done”.
He added: “It is important people come to work but we are going to balance it.”