Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK was already seeing a slow growth in the number of employees working from home, with around 5% of the workforce reporting that they had worked mainly from home in 2019 and around 30% reporting that they ever worked from home. This increased rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 46.6% of people in employment doing some work from home in April 2020. Most experts suggest that there will be a move towards remote working longer-term. This could increase people’s well-being and work-life balance, reduce commuting costs, lead to positive environmental impacts and create more inclusive working environments for people with certain types of disabilities.

However, it is unclear how worker well-being, work-life balance, company culture and productivity will be impacted in the longer-term. Experts also raise concerns about health and safety, and data security and privacy in home-working environments. Long-term mass homeworking could also increase economic and social inequalities for certain groups, because occupations requiring higher qualifications and experience are more likely to provide homeworking opportunities than elementary and manual occupations. Experts suggest it could also have impacts on wages, the property market, and on city centres and public transport.

This POSTnote will look at the available data on remote and flexible working, including differences by sector and occupation, and how organisations intend to use remote working following the pandemic. It will assess the available evidence on how productivity, health and well-being have been affected by widespread remote working, and likely future impacts. It will also look at the most effective ways to support worker health, safety and well-being, as well as data security and privacy concerns and strategies for preventing a widening of economic and social inequalities.

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