COVID-19: How working from home start times grew later as pandemic wore on

April 19, 2021

Home workers increasingly hit the snooze button as the pandemic wore on last year, opting for a later start as the rigours of office working patterns faded, new analysis suggests.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that by September last year, those setting up their laptops in kitchens and spare rooms were doing so on average at 10.45am.

That was half an hour later than the average start time in April, shortly after lockdowns began - and about an hour after when those in workplaces were typically clocking on.

But the ONS analysis also found that while working from home offered more flexibility - with more and longer breaks as well as later starts - the working day tended to be longer overall.

The figures were part of a wide-ranging analysis that revealed 35.9% did some work at home in 2020, up from 26.5% in 2019.

It showed that home workers in the early part of the pandemic "tended to keep hours close to typical office hours, perhaps because home working was new to many", but that this changed over the next few months.

"In September 2020, there was a shift in the working day as a greater proportion of home workers worked later in the morning and evening," the analysis said.

It showed that, for the period between 6pm and 11pm, those who worked from home were more likely to be still on duty than those that did not.

On average, those full-time employees who mainly worked from home in 2020 completed 35.9 hours per week in 2020 compared to 32.7 by those who never did.

Home workers also tended to do more unpaid overtime - about six hours - than those who never worked from home - 3.6 hours per week.

Those mainly working from home also had a sickness absence rate (0.7%) that was about a third of those who never did last year (2.2%).

Meanwhile, the analysis showed that while there had been an apparent wage penalty for those mainly working from home prior to the pandemic - when they earned an average 6.8% less than those had never done so - this was reversed in 2020.

Last year, those who mainly worked from home were paid 9.2% more on average than those who never worked from home.

Previous studies have shown that employees in higher-paid jobs were more likely to be able to work from home, the ONS said.

Regionally, London had the highest proportion who worked from home at some point in the past year, at 43%, with Northern Ireland having the fewest, at 26%.

The figures came as banking giant HSBC - which is looking to slash head-office costs - revealed that the executive floor at its London HQ had been abolished, with senior management hot-desking.

Chief executive Noel Quinn told the Financial Times: "We don't have a designated desk. You turn up and grab one in the morning. I won't be in the office five days a week. I think it's unnecessary… It's the new reality of life."

The bank is one of a number of major employers cutting back office space, with newspaper publisher Reach revealing recently that it plans to shut a number of regional newsrooms and ask staff to work from home, while British Airways is considering a sale of its Heathrow HQ.

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