Just as you’d expect, the Office of National Statistics has been heavily involved in documenting the COVID-driven switch to homeworking.

Last year, for example, the ONS reported an important new headline figure: the number of people working from home in 2020 had risen by 9.4% since 2019, so that it now encompassed more than 35% of the total UK workforce.

The analysts provided further detail to back up that headline figure. People who made the switch to homeworking during lockdown tended to spend more time at their jobs, including more unpaid overtime and more work after 6.00pm. They were also less likely to be promoted or take time off sick… but, then again, they were usually receiving above-average wages in the first place.

The view from the regions

Of course, the small print of the ONS report highlighted regional variations.

According to the study, London had easily the highest proportion of people working from home, some 43% of its local workforce. Northern Ireland had the lowest, at 26%. Low rates were almost as conspicuous in areas of Scotland and the north of England.

These differences were partly a product of divergent local job markets, of course. London’s high proportion of companies in the finance and professional services sectors makes homeworking an easy option for many of its workers.

However, even allowing for such differences, the ONS researchers still found London and south-east England still had higher proportions of homeworking than other parts of the country, suggesting that other factors informed its ready adoption of the practice.

We’re hoping to learn more in this year’s ONS report, which will document the beginnings of ‘hybrid’ work patterns and their spread across the UK.

Last year’s lesson

When lockdown began, just 12% of staff in accommodation and food services were able to work from home, and those in the retail, transport and storage sectors did little better. Staff in warehouses, shops, and factories, who have been forced to keep up their old work patterns, have also been at the greatest risk of being furloughed or losing their jobs amid the greater economic turmoil.

While HR professionals have been at the forefront of the implementation of new working patterns, there’s no doubt that the logistics of doing so while maintaining staffing levels and obeying social distancing rules are demanding. If you’re struggling with the adoption new work patterns, you’ll find that LeavePlanner’s software can be a very useful resource.

For any queries, call Steve on 01252 636 070 or email support@leaveplanner.com