Lots of us are working from home at the moment – indeed, the government’s advice is currently to work from home if you can.
The last few years have proved that working from home – and so-called “hybrid working” – is both possible and productive.
It is not for everyone: for many, working from home is the same as living at work, and in some jobs it is impossible. Nonetheless, new figures show it is becoming more popular.
Research from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and labour market analysts Emsi Burning Glass show that 25% of jobs advertised in December last year mentioned hybrid or flexible working, which also includes job shares and working irregular hours. That’s up from 19% before the pandemic.
Insurance giant Zurich is one company that has been offering flexible working for all its roles since 2019. It was originally introduced to encourage more women to apply for senior positions, which were not traditionally seen as flexible.
It’s been a success: over the past 12 months, 23% of new female hires have been part-time, compared with 10% in 2019. And the number of applications from both men and women has increased by more than two-thirds since it launched the initiative.
One of them, Yez Ibrahim, started last summer. She mostly works from home on a flexible, part-time basis, which allows her to spend more time with her family. It was after having her second child that she knew “work on a full-time basis just wasn’t an option. I just couldn’t juggle that anymore”.
She told Sky News: “It’s just an all-round better setup for me. And it works. I’m a better version of myself, I’m a better employee, a better mum.
“It’s just benefit after benefit really, when you look at it.”
Zurich UK is now calling on the government to change the law, so that all large companies make all vacancies available on a part-time, job-share and flexible basis – unless there are specific business reasons why this is not possible.
The company’s HR director Steve Collinson said: “We’ve certainly seen a very strong demand from employees and from candidates.
“If we think about the fact that there are over a million unfilled vacancies in the UK, if there’s this very strong demand from candidates for flexibility, for access to things like part time and job share opportunities, if employers don’t have flexibility, then we’re missing out on whole swathes of potential candidates.”
Mumsnet CEO and founder Justine Roberts said this flexibility is exactly what mothers have been calling for: “I think we need to acknowledge that flexible working, hybrid working is something that women in particular mothers have been desperate for, for years.
“What the pandemic has done is allowed us to test this, experiment with this, and the world hasn’t fallen in. The thing that mums want most from work is flexibility.
“There is a risk I suppose that as we move to sort of more established patterns that the women end up being the remote workers and the men go back to the office. And because they’re in the office, they have more influence. But I strongly feel that it’s up to employers to counter that and make time for all their employees.
“So it’s very much up to employers to work out how to make hybrid working work for everyone.”
Working from home has unexpected side effects as well. As people stay away from the office, businesses in city centres that relied on them are suffering.
Whether everyone chooses to take up the option of flexible or hybrid working remains to be seen. There will be challenges to make sure no one misses out on support, mentorship, or opportunities out of the office.