Remote Time and Attendance

Is 'flexible working' really working for everyone?

We take a look at the ONS 2023 homeworkers report, to assess the impact of remote working in the UK...
Sean QuinnPosted on Monday, July 24th 2023

The past few years have seen huge shifts in the way in which we work - and the location. Many roles now come without a fixed location at all, with 14.3% of advertised job roles being fully remote and 16% of the UK workforce working solely from home. These changes in habits appear to be permanent, with half of big businesses planning to reduce their global office spaces due to reduced numbers of employees in-office full time.

The benefits of offering flexibility and remote working have been widely reported, but the statistics show that not everyone is benefiting equally from the shift towards remote work.

The true state of remote work

A recent survey by the ONS has assessed the real working arrangements of employees in the UK. Their report outlines the relationships between hybrid working and factors such as race, pay, educational status and age.

Unsurprisingly, parents were more likely to be working from home at least some of the time than those without dependents. After all, one of the major benefits of flexible working arrangements is the ability to work around childcare commitments, as well as being available for the school run. Those who were single were also more likely to work in roles which offered no opportunity to work from home, when compared with those who were married or cohabiting with a partner.

However, another huge proposed benefit of hybrid working appears not to have been realised; there were no significant differences in homeworking between those with a disability, and those without. In theory, flexible working should attract more candidates who might otherwise struggle to attend the office 5 days a week, or need to fit their work around doctor's appointments and flare-ups of their condition. In reality, recruitment teams may need to do more to make their job opportunities more accessible, in order to bring more people with disabilities and long-term conditions into the workforce; for example, making reasonable adjustments during their hiring process.

From the data, it seems that those who have actually benefited most from the shift towards work-from-home arrangements are highly paid and highly educated employees, usually working in London. For those earning above £50k per year, 80% were either fully remote or hybrid workers. Those on the lowest incomes had a drastically different experience, with 75% of employees earning less than £10k reporting they had no opportunity to work from home at all. This disparity is likely due to the fact that many jobs which cannot be done remotely (such as cleaning, factory work and care work) are also the lowest paid.

Roles which saw the greatest opportunity for remote or hybrid working included managers, directors and senior officials - with 71% of 'professional occupations' reporting that they were either hybrid or fully remote. On the flip side, 89% of those working in elementary occupations reported that they travelled to work and had no opportunity for home working; understandable, as many of these occupations require employees to be present in a factory, warehouse or construction site. However, around 16% of administrative staff and 10% of sales and customer service employees said that they could homework, but were still travelling to the office; perhaps indicating that these roles are still being encouraged into an office just to 'show face', rather than truly needing to be physically present at work.

Ensuring success with remote work policies

Hesistance to move to hybrid or fully remote working still persists in many businesses; usually due to a lack of trust in employees, or a fear by management that some less engaged members of the team may fall by the wayside if not monitored in person.

As the incidence of remote working is set to continue increasing in the coming years, businesses must reevaluate which roles can realistically be done remotely at least some of the time, to ensure more employees can benefit from the shift online. For those who can truly only perform their role in person, the option of flexible hours, asynchronous schedules and perks such as free in-office canteens can help to ensure in-person employees feel valued, and their mental wellbeing doesn't suffer in comparison to their remote colleagues.

Read more about the best way to manage your remote team to ensure productivity and ensure success.

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