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UK ahead of European colleagues switching to telecommuting




The FT analysis found that the UK’s shift to telecommuting is unusual among most other advanced economies as the size of the professional services sector and a more flexible labor market are expected to prevent a return to pre-epidemic levels of office share. .

Months after the last Covid restrictions were lifted, the latest data available shows that commuting is still almost a quarter of what it was in February 2020, before the spread of COVID-19 in the UK.

“There has been a permanent shift in mindset about how work is organized among the UK’s former office-based workforce,” said Jane Parry, associate professor of work and employment at the University of Southampton and author of a recent study on post-labour practices. said. Closure.

Nearly all respondents, Parry said, supported some form of flexible working, and many said working from home was more efficient because it reduced the amount of time they spent commuting to the office each day.

Commuters are still 23% below pre-pandemic levels, according to the latest Google Mobility data on Thursday (May 5) (the busiest office week). This is not much different from last September, indicating that it could become the norm after a new epidemic.

This is more than double the level in most other European countries with equivalent data, with Germany and Italy 7% below pre-pandemic commuter numbers. Data from the US and Canada are more similar to the UK, but still suggest that more workers are returning to the office.

Nick Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University, said the UK and the US saw a significant shift in the number of people using a hybrid work model, where telecommuting was “very rare” before the outbreak. “After the pandemic, employees will, on average, work two to three days a week in the office and two to three days a week from home,” he said.

The UK has the highest number of paid working days from home each week in Europe, according to a global survey of 33,000 people conducted in February by WFH Research, run by Stanford University and several North American universities.

British people also believe that telecommuting is more effective than other European countries, with the UK having the highest percentage of employees saying they would quit if they had to return to work.

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Jack Leslie, an economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said several factors have contributed to the apparent success of hybrid or telecommuting, including a significant proportion of computer-based jobs in the UK. “Because the UK is a service-based economy, that means more jobs are remotely and permanently feasible,” he said.

According to the Office for National Statistics, around 80% of UK workers in information and telecommunications and around two-thirds in professional and scientific services work from home or use a hybrid model. This compares to an average of 28% across all industries.

Commuting times and costs are generally higher in the UK, which is a significant factor at a time when households are facing the most severe standard of living pressures in decades.

Christopher Pissarides, professor of economics at the London School of Economics, said another reason the UK is an outlier is that its labor market is flexible and less regulated compared to other European countries.

The gap in the number of return-to-office numbers between the UK and some industrial economy countries such as Germany and Italy has been largely constant over the past few months.

Pissarides said the size of the UK’s service sector expected that the gap with other developed countries with a high proportion of manufacturing jobs “will persist”.

The UK share was around 30% in the first week of May, half the pre-pandemic level, according to data from Freespace, which tracks office usage by primarily monitoring large professional services firms.

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The reluctance to return to the office is particularly strong in London, where professional services are more concentrated than in other parts of the UK. According to the latest Google data, travel to work in the capital is down more than 30% compared to pre-pandemic levels in early May.

According to London traffic statistics, the problem is even worse. On the last Thursday of April, the number of people coming through the city’s stations was close to the highest level since the outbreak began, but still down 42% from pre-coronavirus levels.

“In terms of time and money, commuting costs are generally higher in London,” said Yael Selfin, economist at KPMG.

Pissarides said the technological and organizational changes employers have made to allow their employees to work from home have helped make a lasting difference for many UK workers. “I think hybrid walking will continue in the future.”




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