Remote working in the UK has exploded over the last few years, driven by improvements in workplace technology and boosted by the effects of lockdown restrictions.
But what are the facts and figure behind remote working in Britain? How many of us work from home? And what are the effects on our work, wallets, health, and employers’ businesses?
We pulled together all the latest figures from the ONS and numerous other major publications to bring you the latest remote working statistics for the UK.
Key UK remote work statistics
- 30% of the UK workforce is working remotely at least once a week in 2022.
- 8% of UK workers did not enter the office for the whole of 2021.
- 1 in 5 Brits want to work full-time remotely.
- The term “remote jobs” in now searched for over 18,000 times per month in the UK on Google – a 410% increase over the last 5 years.
- People who earn under £20,000 per year have a less than 5% chance of being able to work remotely.
- The average remote working Brit is saving a total of £44.78 per week.
- 20% of people are considering moving further away from their workplace.
- 1 in 5 workers struggle with loneliness when working from home.
- Online job adverts for remote work have increased by 307%.
- 3 in 10 Brits find it hard to separate their home lives from their work lives.
How many people are working remotely in the UK?
Although remote working has become increasingly common in the last few years, it has been gradually increasing since the 1980s. Here we look at the numbers of people who are working remotely in the UK and how this has increased in recent times.
- In 2022 the amount of people working remotely in the UK is 30% of the workforce – a 7% decrease from 2021.
- 31% of businesses report that the majority of their workforce was working remotely in 2021.
- In 2020, following the first ever national lockdown, 37% of the UK’s working population worked remotely at some point in the year – an increase of 10% from the previous year.
- 27% of the UK workforce had reported working remotely at some point in 2019, just under 4 million people.
- For the duration of the first UK lockdown 60% of people worked from home.
- Over 20 million people worked remotely for UK companies in 2021.
- Of all remote workers surveyed by the ONS, only 14% were planning to work remotely before news of the pandemic broke.
- 1 in 5 office workers are currently working a hybrid model (a mixture of working from home and the office).
- 8% of UK workers did not enter the office for the whole of 2021.
- Only 12% of UK workers claim to have always worked remotely pre-pandemic.
- According to a recent WISERD report only 1.5% of UK workers worked remotely in 1981.
Who is working remotely?
Whilst a large number of Brits have worked remotely in recent times, the likelihood of us being able to work remotely depends on many factors including our age, sex, profession, industry and salary.
So, who are the people working remotely, and who are the people who aren’t?
Demographics of remote workers
How does age, sex, location and education affect your chances of being able to work remotely?
- The 25–34 year-old age group are the most likely to be working remotely, with 54% of them working remotely in 2021.
- 16 – 24 year olds are least likely to be working remotely, with only 30% of the group undertaking remote work in 2021.
- Londoners are more likely to be remote workers than any other UK region, and people in the West Midlands are least likely to pick up remote work.
- Women are slightly more likely to be working remotely by a margin of just 2%.
- Those with a degree are twice as likely to obtain remote work than non-graduates.
Professions of remotes workers
Some jobs can be carried out with just a laptop and internet connection, whereas others simply cannot exist without the physical presence of an employee. This creates a big divide between the types of workers who can work remotely and those who can’t.
The professions most likely to be able to work remotely are:
- Professional occupations (lawyers, accountants etc.) – 69%
- Managers, directors and senior officials – 67%
- Administrative and secretarial positions –63%
“Occupations that require higher qualifications are 4 times as likely to offer remote work”
The professions least likely to able to work remotely are:
- Skilled tradespeople – 19%
- Sales and customer service – 15%
- Carers, leisure workers and other service roles – 15%
- Plant and machine operators – 5%
“81% of (usually) office-based professionals in the UK are working from home at least once per week”
Industries of remote workers
Some industries rely heavily on the physical presence of their staff, whereas others can function largely through technology and a “virtual presence”.
So, which industries have the most remote staff?
- Those working within IT and communications have the highest chance of working remotely with over 80% working remotely in 2021
- The industries with the lowest percentage of remote workers are
- Accommodation and food services – 8%
- Transportation and storage – 16%
- Health and social work – 18%
Salaries of remote workers
How much money you earn can have a big impact on your likelihood of working remotely. Here we look at the income bands of remote workers.
- Less than 1 in 20 working people who earn less than £20,000 per year have the option to work from home
- 94% of people earning over £50,000 per year can choose to work form home if they wish
- The majority of people earning over £20,000 per year are choosing a hybrid working model, splitting their time between home and the office.
Employment status of remote workers
Whether you are a permanent staff member, contractor or freelancer, your employment status has an effect on your chances of finding remote work.
- Permanent employees are least likely to work remotely with 64% of them working remotely.
- Contractors and freelancers are the most likely to work remotely, at 74% and 89%
Who is not working remotely?
Whilst much of the UK population are enjoying the flexibility of remote work, there is a significant portion of people who cannot work remotely.
- Delivery drivers, catering staff, buildings maintenance workers and front-line nursing staff have a 0% chance of working remotely
- 22% of UK employers do not allow remote work, including 67% of construction companies and 72% of healthcare providers.
Which companies hire remote workers?
Many firms have been actively encouraging remote work throughout the pandemic and continue to do so. But not all employers are so keen to embrace the world of remote working.
- 80% of company directors and managers have allowed some form of remote work from 2020 onward
- Globally 16% of employers are operating on a fully remote basis, with no office or physical workspaces at all.
Do people want remote work?
Remote work may have been increasing in recent years, but do staff actually want to work from home?
- According to a recent YouGov poll 57% of British workers want the option to work from home.
- The term “remote jobs” in now searched for over 18,000 times per month in the UK on Google – this has increased 410% over the last 5 years
- 1 in 5 Brits want to work full-time remotely after the pandemic restrictions are fully lifted
- Only 37% of UK workers say they never want to work from home
- 20% of people are considering moving further away from their workplace due to work-from-home options available to them.
- 60 % of working people believe that a hybrid model of working partly remotely and partly in the office, will be the most beneficial for them.
- According to Bloomberg, 49% of younger workers (Millennials and Gen Z) will quit if asked to return to the office full time.
Benefits of remote working
Remote working can offer a huge range of benefits from time saved on commuting and office-leasing, to reducing pollution and boosting productivity.
Here is a deeper look into the numbers behind these claims.
How much time are we getting back through remote work?
- The average British worker saves 5 hours per week by cutting out their commute – totalling 240 hours per year
- Remote or hybrid workers are 4 times more likely to get a face-to-face GP appointment within one week – due to the ability to attend during standard working hours
- 44% of workers have been able change their work pattern to benefit them
How much money are we saving through remote work?
- The average remote working Brit is saving a total of £44.78 per week by cutting out commuting and lunch costs
- British workers commuting by train are saving an average of £136 per month on work-related travel
- Commuters who drive to work are saving an average of £80 per week in petrol and parking costs.
- On average workers are spending less than half of their usual lunch-time food spend.
- UK businesses with a part-remote work force are saving 45% on office cleaning services, 36% on catering, and 36% on rent and utilities.
- More than one in five companies claim that remote work has reduced their staff absentee rate, reducing their sick-pay spend.
- A Capgemini report suggests that having a mostly-remote work force can slash operational costs by a third.
- London businesses could save an average of £75,312 per year if just 20% of their staff worked remotely.
Although many employers will worry about their staff’s work efforts whilst working out-of-sight, many employees and companies report boosts in productivity.
- Two thirds of employees claim they are more productive when working at home
- 75% of workers say that they are more productive when working at home, because of the lack of distractions from colleagues.
- More than half of UK bosses think that their teams are more productive when working a home.
- 58% of employees say that working remotely gives them more autonomy.
- 3 in 10 people think that they can get more work done at home, than they can in the office.
- 55% of people claim that they can concentrate better when working at home.
- Three major studies (JD Edwards, American Express, and Compaq) found that remote workers are between 15% – 45% more productive than their office counterparts
Mental health & wellbeing
In addition to financial and time savings, some employees also claim that remote work is improving their wellbeing.
- More than half of employees claim to be happier and have more job satisfaction when working remotely.
- 33% of remote workers have been able to dedicate more time to their hobbies, interests and family.
- Those who work from home are able to dedicate at least an extra 30 minutes to exercise every week.
- Remote workers report that the cutting out their commute was the biggest benefit to their mental health.
Outside of our own work and life, many reports claim that remote work provides a host of benefits to the environment.
- During the first national lockdown CO2 emissions reduced by 25% across the country
- If every office-based worker in the UK worked remotely 50% of the time, it would stop the production of 54 million tonnes of greenhouse gas, the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the road.
- Due to reduced consumption of single-use plastics, remote workers will use less than half the amount of plastic as office-based staff.
- Remote workers use 27% less energy than office workers, due to their ability to switch of lights and heating whilst at home.
Negative effects of remote working
Working from home isn’t always a positive experience for everyone.
Here we look at some of the more commonly reported negative effects of remote work.
Mental health & wellbeing (negative)
Whilst some employees report positive benefits on their mental health, wellbeing seems to be the area with the largest negative impact in remote work.
- 29% of people think that working from home is detrimental to their overall health and wellbeing.
- 67% of workers say that they feel less connected to their colleagues when working from home.
- 1 in 5 workers struggle with loneliness when working from home.
- 25% of Brits are working from a bedroom or sofa, and half of those people have developed Musco-skeletal problems
- 34% of Brits working at home say that it has placed a strain on relationships with partners and children.
Work-life balance (negative)
Creating a clear divide between work and home-life is another key issue for remote staff.
- 22% of people find it hard to switch off after finishing a day of working a home.
- 35% of home workers feel they have to be at their computer all day in order to respond quickly.
- 3 in 10 Brits find it hard to separate their home lives from their work lives
- 31% of workers feel they have to be twice as productive when working remotely.
- More than half of remote workers feel they are working longer and taking less breaks.
- One third of workers feel they will be overlooked for promotion if they have been working remotely.
- 36% of people think that it’s harder to make an impact when working from home.
Where do remote workers work?
Not all remote workers work from home, and those who do may work from different areas of their home. According to RSPH, 25% of Brits work from their bedroom or sofa, 52% work in the kitchen, 12% work outside of the home (in coffee shops and shared workspaces) and 11% have a dedicated office room to work from.
7 in 10 home workers feel that they lack the right equipment to carry out their job, with 38% of people claiming they miss having a printer the most.
Searching and recruiting for remote jobs
Online job adverts for remote work have increased by 307% since the first national lockdown, but still account for only 8% of total job adverts according to Adzuna.
And the option of remote work has become an almost essential benefit for employers to offer, with 64% of recruiters saying that being able to pitch a work-from-home policy to candidates helps them find high-quality talent.
Future of remote work
It doesn’t look like remote work is going anywhere fast according to these numbers.
- According to the BBC, 50 of the UK’s biggest firms have no future plans to return all of their staff to the office full-time.
- 28% of British workers would like to work from home permanently in the future.
- 44% of Brits would like to adopt a hybrid model of working, splitting their time between home and the office.
- 87% of UK businesses have adapted to hybrid working.
- 85% of managers believe that having remote workers will become the new normal for many teams
- In 2021 HSBC offloaded 40% of its office space globally, Lloyds Banking Group shed 20% of theirs
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Google Trends | Remote jobs: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=today%205-y&geo=GB&q=remote%20jobs
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The Guardian | Lloyds and HSBC shedding office space: https://www.theguardian.com/business/nils-pratley-on-finance/2021/feb/24/lloyds-hsbc-office-space-covid