Hybrid work hits home for older people and parents

Before the pandemic, one in eight working adults worked from home. During the pandemic it peaked at 49% and during 2022 it fluctuated between 25% and 40%. Between September last year and January 2023, 16% worked from home, and 28% worked on a hybrid pattern.

Parents, older people, higher earners and self-employed people were more use hybrid work or work from home. 16% of men and 17% of women work entirely from home, and 27% and 29% use hybrid working.

The ONS has released details of who is home or hybrid working: Characteristics of homeworkers, Great Britain: September 2022 to January 2023 – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

Sarah Coles, head of personal finance, Hargreaves Lansdown said: “Hybrid working has hit home among older people and parents. Fitting work around our lives and not the other way around could be one key to solving labour shortages, and earnings disparities between parents. Those with children at home find it easier to juggle their responsibilities when they can work from home at least part of the time, while older people may be more convinced to stay in work if they don’t have to schlep halfway across a city in order to do so.

“The ONS statistics have showed that while homeworking is nowhere near the peak it hit during the pandemic, home and hybrid working patterns have hung around long after restrictions were lifted. Those with the ability to work from home, and seniority to insist on it, are far more likely to have adopted new working patterns. It’s one reason why almost one in three self-employed people say they work entirely from home.

“This is the solution for an awful lot of working parents, 31% of whom work in a hybrid pattern – compared to 26% of those without dependent children. The age of the child has little impact. This isn’t a shock, because parents won’t be working with toddlers in tow, wherever they’re based, it just makes childcare much easier to manage. Those with older children, meanwhile, have the ability to manage care before and after school much more effectivelywhen they are at home – and are more able to react to a change in plans.

“The gender pay gap doesn’t open up at the age when people have their first child: it often does so a few years later. This may be because women are more likely to compromise their working hours or location in order to provide care – especially when they have more than one child. The growth of hybrid and home working – and especially the fact that men and women are equally likely to adopt it, could be essential in allowing families to provide care for their children without enormously compromising the ability of either parent to progress in their career.”

Helen Morrissey, head of retirement analysis, Hargreaves Lansdown said: “The emergence of home and hybrid working could be a game changer for older people who want to remain in work, but don’t want to devote so much of their time to commuting and office politics. Many older workers are also providing care for other family members and need flexibility over how and where they work. The government is assessing the most effective ways to encourage people over the age of 50 back into work, and support for these kinds of working patterns is an essential component in that plan. There’s a huge opportunity to make returning to work much more attractive for older people by enabling them to fit it into their lives in a way that works for them.”

Stuck at work

Sarah Coles said: “However, there remain an awful lot of people for whom flexible working is beyond the realms of possibility. Younger people are still packing out buses across the UK. Some 79% of those aged 16-24 travelled to work. And while some employment experts have argued that this is essential for training and socialising, it’s not the main reason they travel to work: 65% of them said they couldn’t work from home – making this the most common age group with no choice.

“Lower earners are also likely to have to go into work. Among those earning up to £10,000, 75% travelled to work and couldn’t work from home – compared to those earning £50,000 or more where 80% worked from home or hybrid. Those in professional occupations were most likely to work from home at least some of the time, and those in elementary occupations were least able to. Only 1% of carers worked from home (plus 3% hybrid), 4% of people in leisure and other service occupations (10% hybrid) and  5% of process, plant and machine operatives (5% hybrid).

“Lack of choice plays a major role: 46% of those who travelled to work every day said they couldn’t work from home, and only 10% said they could work from home but chose to travel in.

“Some of it is influenced by the commute – particularly in London where commutes are far longer on average. 40% in the capital said they used hybrid working.”