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The Latest Data on Working Patterns and What it Means for Recruiters

As a recruiter, you won’t need us to tell you that the world of work has changed in the last couple of years, particularly with respect to the number of people working from home. Opinion is divided, and as the debate rolls on it can be difficult to see actual trends, so we’ve based this article on hard data from various sources, to help recruiters get a handled on what’s actually happening.

What has changed and why?

The generally accepted narrative is that national lockdowns forced businesses to find a way to accommodate home working and having proved that this was possible many workers did not want to return to the office full time. But does the data support this?

Well, the first part, that Covid-19 forced many to work from home is definitely supported. Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show a rise in home working from 5.7% in January and February 2020 to 43.1% in April the same year, and 86% of those who did some work from home did so as a result of the pandemic.

The second part, that workers don’t want to return to the office full time is more complex, which is why this issue is still contentious.

For example, an online survey of 5000 workers conducted by the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) found that 21% of respondents never wanted to work from home again, while 19% wanted to do so full time, so the work force is clearly divided about where they want to work.  

How does working from home affect productivity?

Many businesses are concerned about productivity falling where staff don’t come into the office, whether that’s because there’s a lack of supervision, or because they’re surrounded by domestic distractions.  Again, the frustrating truth is that the experience of home working varies, and it isn’t either universally better or worse for productivity.

According to the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, 28.9% of workers reported that they got more done when working from home, while 40.9% said they got the same amount of work done and 30.2% said their productivity had fallen.

How does working from home affect mental health?

With added flexibility on the one hand and difficulties “switching off” on the other, anecdotal reports give us no consensus on whether working from home is good or bad for workers’ mental health.

According to a CIPD survey:

  • 56% of home/hybrid workers reported an increase in happiness levels

  • 48% reported that they communicate more when working from home

  • 60% reported that they feel less connected to colleagues

  • 30% had difficulty separating their home and work lives

What does all this mean for recruiters?

As you can see from these statistics, there is no hard and fast “one size fits all” answer to the question of working patterns. We can say for certain that the issue is important to UK workers, and how it affects them will depend on their circumstances.

So, how can you advise your clients on this issue, when the answers are so subjective?

It’s true that the data suggests that many workers want different things, and that the effects of home working on workers and businesses varies, so there’s no “correct” answer to the question of working patterns. However, this itself does suggest an answer – workers will not need or respond to the same thing. What they need is flexibility and choice.

Where your clients can allow workers the flexibility to adjust their working patterns so it fits around the rest of their life, and allow workers to interact with their “hybrid office policy” in the way that works best for them, they’ll have a more engaged, committed and healthy workforce, will all the commercial benefits that come with it.

If you have questions, or if we can help in any way, please call our expert team on 01296 468483 or email

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