Nine out of 10 people in the UK who have worked from home during lockdown want to continue doing so, according to research.
The report – Homeworking in the UK: before and during the 2020 lockdown – is believed to be the first to analyse survey data focused on homeworking during the coronavirus pandemic.
It said working from home in the UK rose from 6% of employees before the start of the pandemic up to 43% in April, with results indicating that productivity mostly remained stable compared with the six months before.
Its publication comes after reports that the UK government is planning to encourage workers to return to offices amid concerns of the impact of homeworking on cities and towns.
The government’s move to push people back to workplaces comes despite the huge benefit remote working has in helping to tackle the climate crisis.
During the lockdown in the UK, the lack of machinery, computers, lights and heaters being used in industry, offices and schools, and a reduction in electric rail, tram and Tube services led to weekday electricity demand falling to its lowest levels since 1982. It was reported in May that, during lockdown, there was a 35% reduction in carbon emissions from British power production on the same period last year.
A recent study in Nature Climate Change warned that the global lockdown will have a “negligible” impact on rising temperatures overall but a green recovery involving a sustained reduction in carbon emissions could avert dangerous climate breakdown.
The remote working report, by academics at Cardiff University and the University of Southampton, said 88% of employees who worked at home during lockdown would like to continue doing so in some capacity, with 47% wanting to do so often or all the time.
About two-fifths (41%) said they got as much work done at home as they did six months earlier when most, but not all, were in their usual places of work.
More than a quarter (29%) said they got more done at home, while 30% said their productivity had fallen.
Professor Alan Felstead, based at Cardiff University and the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD), said the results suggested there could be a “major shift” from the traditional workplace.
He said: “What is particularly striking is that many of those who have worked at home during lockdown would like to continue to work in this way, even when social distancing rules do not require them to.
“Giving employees flexibility on where they work could be extremely beneficial for companies as they attempt to recover from the impact of Covid-19.”
Report co-author Darja Reuschke, from the University of Southampton, said: “City centre high streets have been hard hit by the pandemic and are likely to remain quiet for some time to come as fewer people return to traditional places of work.
“However, this also provides an opportunity for us to radically rethink our city centres as multi-use places that accommodate different kinds of economic uses and are not built around fast roads that connect workplaces with residences.”
The report analysed data gathered for the Understanding Society Covid-19 Study, comprising three surveys by the Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, in April to June.
It questioned a representative sample of 6,000-7,000 workers who had worked at least one hour in the week before interview, and who provided information on where they worked either side of the lockdown.
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