Today (May 18) is the second annual National Work from Home Day. Millions of workers around the UK will be experiencing the benefits of working from their home. Not only will they have avoided the fight through over-crowded public transport or frustration sitting in traffic jams, but they will have saved a few hours in time and been able to start work un-flustered and un-stressed.
Working from home, even occasionally, would greatly enhance people's work-life balance, and improve employee relations. The reduction in commuting alone could save people several hours per day, freeing up time to spend at home with the family or on leisure activities. British workers spend by far the longest time travelling in Europe – as much as 47 working days per year (Samsung research 2004).
Even a small proportion of the workforce working from home occasionally will have a profound effect. Reductions in traffic volumes and passenger numbers on public transport will result in less congestion and overcrowding, making travel a more bearable chore for people who have no choice but to travel. Less travel also means less pollution and CO2 emissions.
The savings are not only in time and travel, but also in cash: apart from the travel fares saved, there is the cappuccino and Danish on the way to the office, lunch in the pub and, for some, congestion charges and parking.
Working from home is a growing phenomenon. According to the Labour Force Survey, undertaken quarterly by the Office for National Statistics, over 3.4 million people, 12 per cent of the working population, regularly or permanently work from home. In the last ten years, that figure has increased by a fifth – more than half a million additional people now work from home.
The highest proportion of home workers is in the South East (excluding London) with nearly 15 per cent, with the lowest in Scotland with 8.5 per cent.
Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, the not-for-profit organisation behind National Work from Home Day, said: "Although some would suggest this could be an excuse to skive, or to extend the weekend, it has been demonstrated that enabling staff to work from home, even occasionally, increases productivity. BT currently employs 64,000 flexible workers and 11,500 contracted full time home workers. Where it has introduced these 'smarter' working practices, it has seen a 20 per cent increase in productivity.
"Although a real win-win situation is rare in life, working from home, and other similar smarter working practices, do not have a downside. They benefit all parties: more productivity for businesses, better work-life balance for staff, less congestion for drivers and less over-crowding for public transport users.
"In addition, it provides some 'macro' benefits in that better productivity through smarter working makes the UK more competitive in the global economy and less travel overall means lower emissions and pollution for the environment."
Work Wise UK is a five-year initiative to promote the wider adoption of smarter working practices such as flexible working (including condensed hours and nine-day fortnights), mobile and remote working, and working from home. It is backed by the TUC, CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, BT, Transport fro London, Equal Opportunities Commission, RAC Foundation, Association of Commuter Transport, SCOPE, Henley Management College and Technology Means Business.