Working from home? We’ve been doing it for ages

Working from home is nothing new. It may be something we have been compelled to do, but it’s something that has been steadily on the rise in the past few years.

For some industries, this will prove a major logistical challenge, but for others, it has increasingly become the norm, and being able to do so could even prevent some companies from going under.

So, just how used are we to working from home? And which industries and groups do it the most? According to the Annual Population Survey it involves around 1.7 million people in the UK – about 5 per cent of the workforce, although 8.7 million said that they have worked from home at some point.

The figures have been on the rise in the last five years or so, from 4.3 per cent in 2005 to 5.1 per cent in 2019. Whether the Coronavirus pandemic brings about a long-term change in attitudes toward home working in the coming years remains to be seen.

The extent to which people can and do work from home clearly varies quite a lot from one industry to the next.

More than half of those working in sectors such as information and communication have worked from home at some point, wearas industries such as accommodation and food services and transport and storage report the lowest levels.

Looking at the jobs that make the top ten, it appears those in high-skilled occupations are much more likely to have the ability to do so, with occupations such as Chief Executives (69.2 per cent) and Media Professionals (58.1 per cent) working from home the most.

Some occupations see high levels of home working from home, but low numbers of people saying they ‘mainly’ work from home. These include teachers, who obviously mainly work in classrooms, but will also regularly carry out work such as marking and planning from home.

Occupation Mainly Work from Home Have Ever Worked from Home
Chief Executives and Senior Officials 8.9% 69.2%
Media Professionals 20.5% 58.1%
Artistic, Literary and Media Occupations 23.7% 57.8%
Teaching and Educational Professionals 3.8% 57.8%
Health and Social Services Managers and Directors 2.5% 57.0%
Functional Managers and Directors 13.2% 56.1%
Legal Professionals 5.4% 55.7%
IT and Telecommunications Professionals 11.4% 55.0%
Business, Research and Administrative Professionals 8.0% 54.8%
Research and Development Managers 2.7% 54.8%

As for the logistics of adopting a new way of working, questioned seasoned home workers via Twitter for tips.

“My advice is find your own space for working if at all possible, said lawyer Victoria Moffatt. “Even a small corner. Pack away when you’re finished for that mental ‘closure’. Work set hours if at all possible and get ‘ready’ – for me that’s hair, make-up, clothes.”

Public relations executive Hana Bednarova said: “I used to work from home when freelancing (for over a year). Find what works for you! I loved creating my ‘home office’, using a spare room, but not everyone has one. I had my ‘work mug’ which I used only when working.”

Other interesting data emerged. Home working was found to be much more common in the South, particularly in the South East, where if affected 34.9 per cent – twice as many as in Northern Ireland.

And younger workers are far less likely to have worked from home, with those under 30 representing the lowest number.