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Home working set to more than double compared with pre-pandemic levels

Home working is set to more than double compared to pre-pandemic levels once crisis is over, according to a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The survey found employers expect the pandemic to lead to a “long-term shift” in how people work, estimating that the proportion of people working from home on a regular basis once the crisis is over will increase to 37% compared to 18% before the pandemic.

It also found that they expect the proportion of staff who work from home all the time to rise to 22% post pandemic compared to 9% before lockdown measures started to be imposed.

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The survey of 1,046 employers also shows that, overall, employers believe people working from home are as productive as other workers, with 28% of employers believing the increase in homeworking has increased productivity or efficiency, compared to 28% of organisations that report the opposite effect and 37% that don’t believe there has been any effect on productivity or efficiency.

Organisations reported that during the lockdown the average proportion of the workforce working from home continuously was 54%.

To support the shift to more regular homeworking and other forms of flexible working, the CIPD believes the right to request flexible working should become a “day-one right” for all employees, rather than after 26-weeks as currently required. The Government has pledged to consult on whether to make flexible working the default position unless employers have a good reason not to.

The CIPD’s survey also found that many employers are already getting ready for a more flexible future with 44% of employers said that they are putting in place additional measures or spend to support home working. Of these, 66% plan to change their policies to enable more home working and 46% plan more line management training in managing and supporting home workers.

In addition, 33% of employers plan to introduce new forms of flexible working or try and increase the uptake of existing flexible working arrangements, including working from home on a regular basis (70%), always working from home (45%), part-time hours (40%), flexi-time (39%), term-time working (16%) and compressed.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said: “The pandemic is going to have a long-lasting effect on how we work, with a step change in the proportion of people who work from home on a much more regular basis. This will disrupt some existing patterns of economic activity, for example spending by office workers in town and city centres is likely to drop substantially over the long-term and we will see a further shift to online retail.

“However, the advantages will be considerable for employers and workers. Organisations will be able to hire people from a much wider geographic area and reduced time and money spent on commuting will take pressure off our transport infrastructure and boost spending in local communities.”

He added: “Greater use of home working will make work more accessible and sustainable for all, particularly for people with caring responsibilities and those with mobility or health concerns. This shift will support and encourage employers to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce which is good for the economy and society at large. For many people more flexible working opportunities and choice over when and where they work can give a better work-life balance and support for overall mental and physical wellbeing.

“However, many employers need to improve how they manage and support people who work from home more regularly and crucially also need to increase the range and uptake of other forms of flexible working so those people who are not able to work from home can work flexibly wherever possible in different ways. To support this wider shift to more flexible workplaces we would like to see the right to request flexible working become a day one right.”

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