Business

One-third of Britons still working from home despite rule changes, data show

Vast numbers of Brits are still working from home, despite being free to go back to the office since the government repealed its advice to work remotely nearly a month ago.

Boris Johnson announced on 20 January that in England the working from home guidance would be withdrawn immediately.

Despite this, between 19 January and 30 January, 36% of working adults reported having worked from home at least once in the last seven days, according to new data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS said this proportion had actually increased in recent weeks, but was still below the July 2020 peak, when nearly half of all working adults worked from home.

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Work from home soared in response to the emergence of the more contagious Omicron variant, with 21% of adults reporting that they had worked exclusively from home between 15 December and 3 January.

The data is bad news for Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has been encouraging workers, especially those at the beginning of their careers, to get back in to the office.

Last August, Mr Sunak warned young people that working from home might harm their careers, and last month he moved to close a tax loophole that encouraged working from home and cost the Treasury more than £500m.

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The slow return of workers to the office has had the knock-on effect of stifling the recovery in city centre footfall, hurting shops, hairdressers, pubs and bars who have been badly hit by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the rise of working remotely is linked to lower overall spending, according to the ONS.

Approximately 46% of those working remotely in January said they spent less as a result of homeworking. A similar proportion of homeworkers reported spending less when interviewed in November (49%).

Half of homeworkers reported spending less on fuel and parking for commuting, and two fifths reported spending less on commuting using public transport.

The area where homeworkers most commonly saw spending increase was utility bills, where 86% reported their spending had risen.

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