“Being able to work from home every now and again is a sensible move for individuals and their employers …….. Smart employers know this already. Now it's time for the rest to wake up to the benefits of flexible working.”
Brendan Barber TUC General Secretary
Today (May 15) is National Work from Home Day. An estimated five million workers across the UK will have not gone into work. None of them will have rung in with excuses, and none of their bosses will have accused them of skiving.
With fewer commuters, the roads are clearer and public transport less crowded than usual. Stress levels have fallen, pollution levels are down and CO2 emissions reduced. People are happier, have a better work-life balance and ultimately will be healthier.
“This is not a utopia,” said Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, the not-for-profit organisation behind National Work from Home Day. “This will be reality as smarter working practices, such as home working, become more widely adopted.”
The aim of National Work from Home Day is to allow people the opportunity to demonstrate that without the stress induced by the workplace environment, with the often long commute many have to endure, people can be even more productive by regularly, or even occasionally, working from home.
The RAC Foundation, a supporting partner of Work Wise UK, calculates that 25 million people in the UK commute to and from a fixed place of work, of which 18 million people go by car and seven million by other means. The influential Eddington Report predicted that if recent trends continue, by 2025, congestion will waste around £22 billion worth of time in England alone.
“It would not take much to see a real impact,” continued Phil Flaxton. “Even if staff worked only an average of one day every two weeks at home, this would result in ten per cent less people commuting and travelling. Think of the impact that would have on our roads, trains and buses.
The savings in commuter travel by BT homeworkers is over 20 million miles per year. This is a conservative estimate based on each commuter avoiding 100 commutes a year of a round trip of 15 miles.
Nearly 3.5 million people already work from home in the UK – 12.2 per cent or one-in-eight of the working population – an increase of 600,000 since 1997. Many organisations already benefit from the cost saving and increased productivity benefits that smarter working brings.
The highest proportion of home workers is in the South West with 15.7 per cent, followed by Eastern England with 14.4 per cent. The lowest is in the North East with 9.3 per cent, followed by Scotland with 9.4 per cent.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "Being able to work from home every now and again is a sensible move for individuals and their employers. The employee avoids the stressful daily commute and can concentrate on work without the usual office distractions. Time saved can be spent on things not normally possible during the working day, like collecting the kids early from school. Employers benefit because their staff feel more relaxed and trusted and are likely to get more work done.
''Smart employers know this already. Now it's time for the rest to wake up to the benefits of flexible working. Workers stuck with old-fashioned, rigid patterns of working want access to flexi-time and home working. Employers who fail to move with the times are likely to find their ability to attract and retain the best staff becomes increasingly difficult.''
Home working is one of the smarter working practices being promoted through the Work Wise UK campaign, which is entering its third year. Others include flexible working, such as condensed hours and nine-day fortnights, mobile and remote working. Apart from benefitting from more productive staff, employers will save costs as the infrastructure required to support a smarter working workforce is less than a traditional one.
Smarter working has meant that BT has been able to reduce the number of offices it operates. Since 2003, the number has fallen from 159 to 94, reducing the number of workstations provided by 18,545 and the floor area required by 222,500 m2 (2,395,400ft2), leading to savings of £88 million per annum in overheads such as rates, rent, repairs, facilities management, etc.
Work Wise UK’s partners include the TUC, CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, BT and Transport for London. The organisation aims to encourage half the working population, some 14 million people, to be offered smarter working by 2011.
To assist employers wanting to adopt smarter working practices, Work Wise UK provides guidance and assistance through its website (www.workwiseuk.org) and via a national network of advisers, and offers a framework for organisations to work to, culminating in the award of the Work Wise UK Mark of Excellence.
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Issued on behalf of Work Wise UK by Chelgate Limited
Notes to editors:
• Work Wise UK is organised by the IT Forum Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation.
• Supporters of the Work Wise UK campaign include the CBI, TUC, the British Chambers of Commerce, BT, Transport for London, Equal Opportunities Commission, Scope, the RAC Foundation, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, Technology Means Business, Henley Management College and the Association for Commuter Transport.
• A dedicated electronic media centre has been established for journalists to obtain further information, to download print-quality materials, and to register for media updates about Work Wise UK. This can be accessed either through the main website or directly at www.workwiseuk.pressrooms.net.
• Further information about Work Wise UK can be found on the website www.workwiseuk.org.
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