It is no secret that the pandemic brought upon us a significant shift to the status quo. In 2020, remote working was far less common, with only around one in six workers (17%) doing so for the majority of their week.
Despite further efforts to move back to the workplace since the reopening, remote working continues to remain a popular option in 2021. This month, amongst those economically active, 28% were predominantly working remotely – meaning there are now more than 3 million additional remote workers across the UK than compared to pre-pandemic.
When examining expectations for this time next year, we see remarkably little difference. With 25% still expecting to be working from home most of the time in November 2022, it indicates a significant shift in our approach to the workplace, with habits driven by the pandemic appearing to become entrenched in the longer term.
The success of the remote working experiment is likely to be partly driven by the financial gains it can provide.
Those who were previously commuting every day no longer face regular costs associated with rail or car travel, or from frequently buying lunch out.
No wonder, therefore, that our analysis suggests that throughout the pandemic as a whole, those working from home have been 5% more likely than average to agree they are saving more than they usually do (44% to 39%).
Further analysis of our data indicates that longer term trends towards remote working are not entirely consistent across demographics. Amongst those currently working from home, the proportion expecting to continue doing so in a years’ time was below average amongst both Gen Z and Gen Y (18 to 39), as well as those with children under 18 in the household.
Whilst childcare responsibilities could be one cause of the weaker demand for remote working amongst younger cohorts, there are likely to be additional factors at play. Our findings have, for example, consistently highlighted a greater appetite for out of home leisure throughout the pandemic amongst younger generations.
The return to the office would make social occasions and access to leisure facilities far easier than compared to the same opportunities provided by remote work.
The overall shift towards remote work is already having some concerning implications for some cities. Compared to other parts of the country, city centres across the world have experienced the weakest recovery in footfall compared to pre-pandemic levels.
At least in London, this weak recovery is having a knock-on effect on the housing market. Whilst UK house prices have risen sharply throughout the pandemic, growth in prices across London in 2021 (3% annually) was the lowest by a considerable margin, with all other regions seeing rates at least three times as high.
The city’s loss might be the worker’s gain.
The pandemic has proved something of a renaissance for the average commuter. With five day commutes and expensive lunches being tossed aside, the working week is being transformed for millions of workers across the country.
Four day week success stories, such as those at Morrisons and Atom Bank, are growing more prominent, vacancies have never been higher and movement between jobs is now at record levels. Workers simply feel as though they have a choice again. Not satisfied with having to return to the office? Then simply find a similar role which lets you continue working remotely.
The shift to remote working was just the tip of the iceberg. Power is very much shifting back into the hands of the employee.