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Remote Office Workers in the UK: What are the Trends?

The United Kingdom is approaching a mobile working “tipping point” – with more than 70 percent of the UK firms likely to allow their employees work remotely by 2020, says a recent study by The Work Foundation of Lancaster University. At present, around 54 percent of the UK office workers are free to work away from the office, according to another study by YouGov.

As a change is underway, you may want to know more about this new trend and how it is going to impact your work life. Is the trend here to stay? Is it impacting employees across all industries and demographics? What are the major benefits and concerns? You may have many such questions. This article aims to address most of them.

Working from home

Not all remote workers work from home. According to an analysis of the latest ONS figures by the TUC, around 1.5 million out of a total 4.2 million remote workers in the UK actually work from home, while the remaining 2.7 million work away from office, but not necessarily in their home. Some of them often need to travel to meet their clients elsewhere.

Self employed

Most people working from home are self-employed. According to the latest ONS statistics, around 63 percent of remote workers were self-employed, while about 34 percent were employees of a company. Most of the non-home workers were employed by a company, while only seven percent of such workers were self-employed.

Skill and experience

Most remote workers are highly skilled, well-paid and have years of experience in their profession. According to the latest ONS figures, three out of every four remote workers were managers, senior officials or highly skilled professionals, while only one in fifteen were low skilled workers.

The gender factor

The analysis by TUC also found that six out of every 10 remote workers were men. Only one out of every three self-employed persons was female, according to the study.

Industry and job type

Working from home is not equally prevalent across all industries. According to the TUC analysis, nearly 18 percent of workers in the information and communications industry work remotely, compared to 16 percent in the science and technology sector, 14 percent in the real estate sector, and only seven percent in the retail sector.

The age factor

Older people are more likely to get a chance to work from home, indicates the ONS findings. More than 38 percent of the workers aged 65 and over work remotely, compared to only 5.1 percent in the age group of between 16 and 24.

Is the trend here to stay?

From cost cutting to growth in productivity, the benefits of a remote working model are many. Remote workers are happier, more creative, less stressed and more engaged. According to the Lancaster University survey conducted among 500 managers, 44 percent said they believe remote working will help increase productivity, while 42 percent believe it will help inculcate a feeling of trust among employees and 35 percent said it would help improve their work-life balance.

On the other hand, another new research reveals that more than 60 percent of UK employees are willing to work remotely, at least occasionally, while 14 percent said they want to work from home every day. It is a win-win for both parties – employers and employees, so chances are that the trend will stay for long. However, traditional offices are not going to die anytime soon. According to the survey, around 35 percent UK employees said they still prefer working from the office every day.

What are the concerns?

Even though more and more UK firms are adopting the remote working model, the Lancaster University survey reveals that managers have some concerns over this model. For instance, around 34 percent are concerned that remote working may result in longer working hours for them, while 28 percent believe it may create difficulty in employee monitoring, and 22 percent are worried about a possible lack of collaboration.

Like it or not, remote working is the way forward. Sooner or later, almost every UK firm has to evolve their work culture to suit the new trend. However, implementing flexible work model could be a challenging task for many organisations. They may need to bring in changes to their employment terms and conditions and performance management policies, for best results.

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