The number of home workers is at its highest level since record began, according to official statistics.
The Office for National Statistics today said 4.2 million of the 30.2m million people working between January and March this year were homeworkers – 13.9% of those in work. A home worker is defined as someone who spends at least half their working time at home. The number has grown by 1.3 million and 2.8 percentage points since 1998.
The ONS said homeworkers tend to work in higher skilled roles than the rest of the population and on average earn a higher hourly wage. Almost two-thirds of them were self-employed. The proportions of home workers who were employees rose from 32.3% in 1998 to its highest proportion of 37.2% in 2013 before dropping down to 34.4% in 2014.
Of the 4.2 million home workers in 2014, 14.8% were working as managers or senior officials, 35.2% were professionals or associate professionals and a further 23.5% were working within skilled trades. This meant that almost three quarters (73.4%) of home workers were in some of the highest skilled roles in the economy. For non-home workers just over a half (51.9%) were among the same occupational groups.
The top three roles carried out by home workers are farming, construction and business development/sales managers.
Homeworkers are also more likely to work part-time than non-home workers. Just over a third (36%) of home workers reported that they usually work 30 hours or less per week in January to March 2014. This was higher than those who were non-home workers where 27% worked 30 hours or less per week.
Working from home is more prevalent among individuals who are older. For all those in work, 13.9% were home workers in January to March 2014. For those aged 16 to 24 the rate stood at 5.1% and for those aged 65 and over more than a third (38.3%) worked from home.
The ONS said this could partly be down to the fact that as people get older they tend to be more concentrated in roles with more responsibility which in turn may enable them to work with less supervision. Additionally, as people get older they are more likely to be self-employed and this group tends to work from home.
The TUC said workers are choosing to work from home to avoid costly commuting. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Improvements in home technology have made home-working an attractive and cheap alternative to costly commutes into the office. Home-working also helps those unable to travel – including disabled people or those with caring responsibilities – to stay in work and continue their careers.
“But too many bosses still don’t trust staff to work from home and instead force them to trudge into the office so they can keep an eye on them. Employers’ attitudes to new working practices must change to make a much better use of modern technology in all workplaces.”