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Most people working from home want to keep doing it, new analysis using Understanding Society data

Work at home

New analysis from Understanding Society shows that the share of people who always work at home increased around tenfold during the pandemic, and those who sometimes work from home went up almost 80%.

Of those who worked at home during the lockdowns, just under 90% said they would like to carry on with some form of homeworking once the pandemic restrictions had been lifted.

In April 2020, 31% of people answering the Understanding Society Covid-19 Survey said they always worked at home – up from just 3.3% in January-February 2020. By March 2021, 27.8% still said they were working at home.

Over a quarter of people (25.8%) said they sometimes worked at home before the pandemic, compared to 45.9% in April 2020 (45.2% in March 2021). However, homeworkers are still in a minority – the majority of workers didn’t work at home except for a couple of timepoints during the pandemic. The biggest driver of the probability of working at home is the nature of the industry in which someone is employed.

The new briefing uses data from Understanding Society’s Covid-19 Survey, which launched in April 2020. It investigates who worked at home by gender, age group, industry and ethnicity – and looks at other factors such as what they earn, how long their commute is, how many adults and children live in the household, and how many rooms they have.

The results show the people are more likely to work at home if they are on a higher income and if they have children (compared to people who don’t). The likelihood of working at home also increases the more rooms they have per person in the household.

Before the pandemic there was no gender difference, but during it, slightly more women worked at home than men. There was also no significant difference by ethnicity before Covid, but during the pandemic, the share of employees always working at home was lower among Bangladeshi-Pakistanis, Black Caribbeans, and people of mixed race. Future working from home intentions

When asked about where they would like to work in the future, just under 90% of people reported that they would like to continue working at home at least sometimes. This figure was consistent across income levels, commuting time and family circumstances. Age appears to play a small role in the working from home decision, as those aged 35 and over where slightly more likely to want to always work from home than workers in younger age groups.

Raj Patel, Associate Director, Policy and Partnerships at Understanding Society, says: “The pandemic could see long-term change for many people’s working patterns if hybrid working becomes established. People whose commute to work takes longer than 35 minutes are more likely to report wanting to work at home in the future, compared to those who commute for ten minutes or less. We also know that some groups are more likely to want to work at home – including the middle and older age groups, and Black Caribbean people. This could mean major change for employers, transport operators, and businesses in towns and cities.”

Read our briefing note on Working At Home research