Homeworking: ONS figures



22 June 2021

Homeworking was in the news again last week, with one national newspaper suggesting that there would be a default right to work from home in future legislation.  And although this assertion was quickly denied by the government, it does seem likely that many employees – and importantly employers too – are keen to continue the national homeworking lived-experiment which was forced upon the nation in March 2020.

Indeed figures published by The Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently provide ample evidence of the desire of both sides of the employment contract to explore hybrid and home-working roles further in the months and years ahead.  Two of the headline findings from that report are shown below:

  • Of businesses not permanently stopped trading, 24% stated that they intended to use increased homeworking going forward, with the Information and Communication industry recording the highest proportion (49%)
  • Online job adverts including terms related to "homeworking" have increased at a faster rate than total adverts, with homeworking adverts in May 2021 three times above their February 2020 average.
The benefits to business

So why are businesses so keen to look at this option in the post-pandemic world?

On the one hand we have an unexpected return of the war for talent, with some sectors and businesses struggling to find new talent and recruits following the 16 months of national hiatus.  So anything which widens the potential recruitment pool might well be welcomed by employers.

On the other hand is the growing realisation that more homeworking can be better for the employer’s bottom-line too.  Indeed the chart below highlights the key ONS findings as to why businesses might now be more prepared to embrace greater homeworking:

Of course any of the reasons outlined in that chart might well be a powerful driver for change in isolation, but when taken together the case becomes far more compelling.  It’s also interesting that areas that might have been previously overlooked (such as reducing sickness absence and improved productivity) are now featuring in employer thinking too.

Of course the ONS findings may not represent the final picture, and it remains to be seen just how much change to post-pandemic working practices will actually materialise.  But the direction of travel towards greater levels of hybrid and homeworking now appears to be clearly defined in the minds of employers and employees alike.

Supporting homeworkers

Yet homeworking does bring new challenges for employers, one of which is how you identify and/or support employees who are struggling with their physical, mental, or financial wellbeing.  The key here is to ensure that suitable support is available wherever the employee may be based. 

It follows that the trend towards digital and remotely accessible tools seen prior to the pandemic will continue and accelerate, and employers should seek to ensure that all their employee benefit offerings support all workers in all locations.

The other key component of the debate is ensuring that benefits provided are equally attractive to home and location-based workers.  Providing benefits with a “geographical” bias (for instance free membership of a gym situated next to the employer’s head-office) might be a nice perk for those based there, but conversely might be seen as something of a disincentive for those that are not able to take advantage of it.  So the provision of flexible benefits will help ensure that all workers can see the value of their benefits package regardless of whether they are working in an office or at home.

The reality is that many more employers will be embracing home and flexible working in the years ahead, and it’s vital that their employee benefit tools also evolve to support these new working practices.

For more information on any of the above topics, please speak to your usual Howden Consultant in the first instance, or visit our website for other contact options. For the latest details on COVID-19 & Employee Benefits provision please visit our coronavirus hub.

(Published 22/06/21)

Steve Herbert

Steve Herbert

Steve is Head of Benefits Strategy, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, and is an award-winning thought leader on Pensions, Employee Benefits, and Human Resources issues. He is occasionally accused of making Employee Benefits interesting.

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