The Office for National Statistics estimated that only 25 percent of people in the U.K. worked from home in December 2020.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations had to find ways to allow their employees to work remotely, as several offices closed down under lockdown restrictions. In 2020, the U.K government confirmed that employees should not physically go to work unless it is essential. Essential workers include those in the health and social care professions, support and teaching staff, and frontline charity workers.
While media reports have focused on changes in working patterns brought on by the pandemic, the majority of workers in the U.K were not in fact able to work from home.
The ONS conducted the Annual Population Survey (APS) to determine how many people work from home in the U.K. The 13-week quarters make up the APS survey year. The poll was divided into four quarters: January to March (Quarter 1), April to June (Quarter 2), July to September (Quarter 3), and October to December (Quarter 4). There are no strata in the APS architecture.
The 2020 APS survey states that the balance of people working from home has varied in response to government constraints, with as many as 46.6 percent of workers reporting working from home at a certain point during the first lockdown in April 2020. As restrictions were eased and the government encouraged citizens to return to work, the rate dropped to about 27 percent in August 2020 before rising sharply to 47 percent in early February 2021 as the pandemic intensified. In December 2020, the work from home rate fell to 25.9 percent at some point during the week prior to the survey.
The work from home figure was the lowest in rural Scotland and the northern English towns of Burnley and Middlesbrough, where among 14 percent of employees, few said they had ever worked from home. The percentage of people who had ever worked from home increased slightly, from 26.7 percent in 2019 to 36.5 percent in 2020. More than half of managers, supervisors, senior executives, and technical staff worked from home, while cleaners, factory employees, and drivers made up less than 10 percent of the workforce.
KPMG's 16,000 U.K. employees were to work a four-day fortnight in the workplace, with most of their time spent at home or with clients. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan instructed employees to be ready to return to work once the restrictions are lifted.
Additionally, during the pandemic, the U.K. government created several employment measures and state compensation schemes, such as the Job Retention Scheme, to provide furlough for employees whose jobs were affected during the pandemic.
The unemployment rate in the U.K. was at 4.8 percent in April 2021, up by 0.8 percentage from the previous quarter but down 0.3 percentage points from December 2019 to February 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19 including symptoms, prevention and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organisation or your national healthcare authority.