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Homeworking Trends

An overview of recent trends in homeworking.
Laptop in front of a wood burning stove

The prevalence of homeworking, in general, has increased in recent years, with concomitant developments in technology facilitating this approach. While many office workers have worked from home during the recent COVID-19 pandemic a legacy of a maybe to accelerate the trend towards greater levels of remote work.

To illustrate pre-lockdown in the UK, 2.6 million people engaged in agile working from different locations, using home as a base, and over 1.5 million people worked exclusively from home; a 74% increase since 2008 (1).

Further, of the 32 million people currently employed in the UK, many are engaged in sectors where organisations support technology-enabled agile working, such as, Financial and Insurance activities (1.3 million people), Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities (2.5 million people), Administrative and Support Services (1.5 million people).

This trend towards homeworking is in many ways a case of ‘back to the future. During the middle ages many professions, such as bakers, seamstresses, shoemakers and blacksmiths were all professions that were based within or upon someone’s home. The industrial revolution then saw profound changes in the way people worked and people moved from the home in to the factory. At the dawn of the 20th century there was the rise of the first commercial workspaces were people had access to constant electricity, telephones, typewriters etc. This was accompanied by public transport improvements making commuting a norm.

Recently however, as we detailed in the opening paragraph this trend is being reversed. While commuting became the norm it was not necessarily a pleasant experience with traffic jams and delays on public transport. In the 1980’s pioneer companies set out teleworking strategies, including Amex, GE and Levis. In the United States in 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which required all federal executive agencies to establish policies for eligible employees to work remotely. So remote working has moved from a perk to business strategy for many large organisations.

So the trend in remote working is clear – while most office workers spend the majority of their time mostly working in … not surprisingly offices …. There is a trend for those offices to be at home for a growing number for at least some of the week.

References

  1. Homeworkers by UK region, 2008 to 2018. 2019, Office for National Statistics
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