Most people who took up homeworking because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic plan to both work from home and in the workplace (“hybrid work”) in the future, according to data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN).
Workers were asked about their future plans in February 2022, after government guidance to work from home when possible was lifted in England and Scotland. More than 8 in 10 workers who had to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic said they planned to hybrid work.
Since then, the proportion of workers hybrid working has risen from 13% in early February 2022 to 24% in May 2022. The percentage working exclusively from home has fallen from 22% to 14% in the same period. So, what does the future of homeworking look like?
In February 2022, 84% of workers who had to work from home because of the coronavirus pandemic said they planned to carry out a mix of working at home and in their place of work in the future.
While the proportion of workers who planned to hybrid work at all has not changed much since April 2021, that hybrid working pattern has shifted more in favour of spending most working hours at home.
In February 2022, the most common hybrid working pattern that workers planned to use was working mostly from home, and sometimes from their usual place of work. 42% reported this, which is an increase from 30% in April 2021. Meanwhile, the proportion who planned to split their time equally between work and home, or work mostly from their place of work and occasionally from home, has fallen.
The proportion who planned to return to their place of work permanently fell from 11% in April 2021 to 8% in February 2022.
The proportion of homeworkers planning to work mostly from home rose 12 percentage points between April 2021 and February 2022
Future plans of workers who worked from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, Great Britain, 21 to 25 April 2021 and 3 to 13 February 2022
In spring 2022 (27 April to 8 May), when guidance to work from home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was no longer in place in Great Britain, 38% of working adults reported having worked from home at some point over the past seven days.
Comparing data sources on working from home
The proportion of people who work from home is captured in multiple surveys. Our blog about these different data sources and to what extent they are comparable can be found here.
Previous analysis of business and individual attitudes to homeworking was also published in Summer 2021.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, one in eight working adults reported working from home in the week prior to interview (12%). However, this is from a separate survey not directly comparable with more recent figures.
During 2022, the proportion of workers both working at home and at their usual place of work (“hybrid working”) has been rising, while the proportion of those working from home exclusively has fallen. Around one in seven working adults (14%) worked from home exclusively between 27 April and 8 May 2022, while nearly a quarter (24%) both worked from home and travelled to work.
However, travelling to work exclusively has been the most common working pattern since national restrictions were lifted, with 46% of workers doing this in late April and early May 2022.
The proportion of workers hybrid working has risen slightly during spring 2022
Percentage of working adults travelling to work, Great Britain, January 2021 to May 2022
- Due to changes in the wording of the survey, there is a break in the time series from the period 30 March to 10 April 2022. Data before this period cannot be directly compared with data from this period onwards.
In March 2022, those who reported working from home in some capacity were asked why they had done so. The most common reason given was working from home being part of workers’ normal routine (62%), suggesting they have adopted homeworking long-term. Some workers may have already done so before the coronavirus pandemic.
Hybrid and homeworking increased by income bracket. More than a third (38%) of workers earning £40,000 or more hybrid worked between 27 April and 8 May 2022, meaning they both worked from home and travelled to work in the latest week. Workers in this income group were the only ones for whom hybrid working was the most common working pattern. They were also more likely than other income groups to work from home exclusively.
Lower earners were less likely to report hybrid working. Lower earners who reported hybrid working between 27 April and 8 May 2022 included:
- 8% of those earning up to £15,000
- 24% of those earning between £15,000 and £20,000
- 21% of those earning between £20,000 and £30,000
- 32% of those earning between £30,000 and £40,000
Our previous analysis of how adaptable different jobs are to remote working also found that higher earners (including occupations such as financial managers, directors and programmers) are more likely to be able to work from home. In contrast, occupations with lower average earnings, such as gardeners, carpenters and mechanics, were less likely to be able to work from home.
Hybrid work was more common among higher earners
Percentage of working adults, by income, Great Britain, 27 April to 8 May 2022
Travelling to work was the most common working pattern for all income group earning up to £40,000, and was most common among the lowest paid individuals. 6 in 10 (62%) workers paid up to £15,000 per year travelled to work exclusively.
Workers aged 30 to 49 years were the most likely to report hybrid working between 27 April and 8 May 2022, with 29% reporting doing so.
Hybrid working was most common among workers aged 30 to 49 years
Percentage of working adults, by age, Great Britain, 27 April to 8 May 2022
The proportion of people who reported working from home exclusively was similar between age groups, with the highest proportion among those aged 16 to 29 years (16%), and the lowest proportion among those aged 70 years and over (10%).
Travelling to work exclusively was the most common working schedule for those aged between 16 and 69 years, with more than half of workers aged 16 to 29 years and aged 50 to 69 years doing so.
More than three-quarters (78%) of those who worked from home in some capacity said that being able to work from home gave them an improved work life balance in February 2022. Half reported it was quicker to complete work (52%) and that they had fewer distractions (53%). Almost half also reported improved well-being (47%).
Younger workers aged 16 to 29 years were less likely than those aged 30 years and over to report experiencing fewer distractions when homeworking. Just under a third of those aged 16 to 29 years reported fewer distractions (32%), compared with more than half of those aged 30 to 49 years (56%) and those aged 50 to 69 years (60%).
Previous analysis from January 2022 found almost half of homeworkers (46%) also reported seeing their spending decrease since working from home. While the majority of homeworkers reported an increase in their spending on utility bills (86%), half said they spent less on fuel and parking for commuting (50%), and two-fifths said their spending on commuting on public transport had reduced (40%).
However, 8% of homeworkers reported no advantages.
The most common disadvantage experienced by homeworkers was difficulty in working with others, with 48% of homeworkers reporting this in February 2022. A little over a quarter also reported more distractions when working from home (26%). Nearly a third (31%) reported no disadvantages at all.
The most common safety measure workers said they wanted when they went into their place of work was ventilation, such as open windows, followed by enhanced cleaning procedures (69% and 66% of respondents, respectively).
Homeworkers were also asked which days they worked from home between 27 April to 8 May 2022. There were no significant differences in the proportion of people with access to homeworking who were doing so on each weekday.
Overall, the proportion of businesses reporting using or intending to include homeworking as a permanent business model increased slightly from 16% in autumn 2020 to 23% in early April 2022. This varied significantly by industry.
More than half (54%) of businesses in the information and communication industry said they were using, or intended to use, increased homeworking as part of a permanent business model in early April 2022. This was only the case for 3% of businesses in the accommodation and food services industry, and 5% of businesses in the construction industry, which are less adaptable to homeworking.
Industries that saw the largest increases in the proportion of businesses reporting that they use or would be using homeworking as a permanent business model between November 2020 and April 2022 included the:
- information and communication industry (23 percentage point increase)
- education (private sector and higher education businesses only) industry (20 percentage point increase)
- professional and scientific activities industry (12 percentage point increase)
- arts, entertainment and recreation industry (11 percentage point increase)
Information and communication businesses reported the biggest increase in businesses using, or planning to use, homeworking permanently
Percentage of businesses using, or planning to use, homeworking as a permanent business model, businesses not permanently stopped trading, broken down by industry, weighted by count, UK, 16 to 29 November 2020 and 4 to 17 April 2022
- In November 2020, businesses were asked if they intended to use increased homeworking moving forward and in April 2022 they were asked if they were currently using or intending to use homeworking.
The most common reason for using or planning to use homeworking as part of a permanent business model (among businesses who reported this) was improved staff well-being (60%), followed by reduced overheads (43%) and increased productivity (41%).