In the Summer of 2021 we ran an online survey of people resident in the Midlands to explore, amongst other things, changing patterns in home work. A total of 484 took the survey of which 385 were in employment at the time. A full report of our findings will be written up shortly. Here, we outline some key findings.
Respondents were asked what proportion of time they spent working from home before the pandemic, during the pandemic and expect to spend after the pandemic. As the following chart shows the results were the same in the East and West Midlands and showed a dramatic increase in time spent working from home during the pandemic, which is expected to largely continue. Specifically, the proportion of time spent working from home, on average, tripled during the pandemic and is expected to remain double the pre-pandemic level. There should be some skepticism about how accurately employees can predict the future but the size of effect is stark enough to suggest we can expect a significant shift in patterns of home working.
This shift is not equal across all. Our next chart shows than women (in our sample) are predicted to spend a larger proportion of time at home than men. Also, those on higher incomes are predicted to spend a larger proportion of time at home than those on lower incomes. Our analysis also showed, controlling for other factors, that graduates, older workers and those with children expect to spend relatively more time working at home.
Crucially, we need to question whether working from home is a good or bad thing. We measured employee’s preferences for working from home across several dimensions, with some interesting findings. When asked if they prefer home working there is a clear split of opinions, as illustrated in the next chart. Most agree or strongly agree that they prefer working from home but a sizable minority disagree and strongly disagree. Interestingly, we find only a relatively weak correlation between people’s preference for working from home and time spent working at home. For instance, a number people said they prefer to not work from home, and yet still spend most of their time working from home.
We finally asked participants to give some positive and negative things about working from home. The following two wordclouds summarise the positive and negative. Travel and commuting clearly shows up on the positive side while a lack of interaction and social contact shows up on the negative side.