The UK’s shift to working from home has made it an exception among most other advanced economies, as the size of its professional services sector and a more flexible labour market are expected to prevent office occupancy rates from returning to pre-pandemic levels.
A few months after the last Covid restrictions were lifted, the latest available figures show commuters are still down almost a quarter from levels before the coronavirus hit the UK in February 2020.
Associate Professor of Work and Employment, University of Southampton, recently published in study About post-lockdown work practices.
Almost all respondents supported some form of flexible working, with many saying working from home was more productive, especially because it reduced the daily commute to the office, Parry said.
The latest Google mobile data for Thursday (May 12) — a peak workday for office work — showed commuters were still 23% below pre-pandemic levels. That’s largely unchanged from last September, suggesting a new normal could emerge post-pandemic.
That’s more than double the rate of most other European countries using the same data, with Germany only 7% lower than pre-pandemic commuters. The U.S. and Canadian figures are more similar to the U.K., but they still show that more workers have returned to the office.
Nick Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University, said the UK, like the US, had seen a marked shift in the number of people using a hybrid working model, with working from home “very rare” before the coronavirus hit. “Post-pandemic, it looks like these employees are on average two to three days a week in the office and two to three days a week at home,” he said. said.
a global polls WFH Research, a unit run by a number of North American universities including Stanford, polled 33,000 people in February and showed the UK has the highest number of paid work days working from home per week in Europe.
It also found that Britons believed working from home made them more productive than those in other European countries, and that workers in the UK said they would quit the job at the highest rate if they were forced to return to the workplace full-time.
Jack Leslie, an economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said a combination of factors contributed to the apparent success of hybrid or work-from-home work in the UK, including a large proportion of computer-based work. “The UK is a service-based economy, which means more jobs can be done remotely over long periods of time,” he said.
According to the Office for National Statistics, around 80% of UK information and communications workers, and nearly two-thirds of professional and scientific services workers, either work from home or use a hybrid model. This compares to an average of 28% across all industries.
Commuting times and costs are also common higher This is an important factor in the UK when families face the worst squeeze on living standards in decades.
Another reason the UK is an outlier compared to other European countries is that the labour market is more flexible and less regulated, according to Christopher Pissarides, professor of economics at the London School of Economics.
The difference in the number of people returning to the office between the UK and some industrial economies such as Germany and Italy has remained largely unchanged over the past few months.
Pissarides said he expected the size of Britain’s services sector to mean that the gap with other advanced economies with a high proportion of manufacturing jobs “should persist”.
Figures from Freespace, which tracks office usage primarily by monitoring larger professional services firms, found occupancy in the UK was around 30 per cent in the first week of May, half what it was before the pandemic.
The reluctance to return to the office is particularly acute in London, where professional services are more concentrated than elsewhere in the UK. The latest figures from Google show that trips to workplaces in the capital have fallen by more than 30% compared to pre-pandemic levels in early May.
Statistics from Transport for London suggest the problem is even worse. The number of people passing through city stations on the last Thursday in April was near its highest level since the pandemic began, but was still down 42% from pre-coronavirus levels.
KPMG economist Yael Selfin said: “Commuting costs in London are generally higher in terms of time and money, and some may still be concerned about using public transport, which is the main mode of commuting in London.”
Pissarides said he believed the technological and organisational changes employers were making to enable employees to work from home could help bring about permanent changes for many UK workers. “I think hybrid jobs are here to stay.”
*This article has been updated with the latest Google Mobile data