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Working from home harms careers as people miss promotions and bonuses

LaToya Harding
·Contributor
·4-min read
Millennial Indian girl in wireless headphones sit at desk at home working on modern laptop, young ethnic woman in earphones browsing Internet shopping online or studying on computer in living room
The report homeworking, which looks at hours, pay and career opportunities between 2011 and 2020, also showed that people who worked remotely were around 38% less likely on average to have received a bonus compared with those who never worked from home between 2013 and 2020. Photo: Getty

Brits working from home are more likely to miss out on promotions and bonuses compared to other employees, new data has shown.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), those who mainly worked from home were less than half as likely to be promoted than all other workers between 2012 and 2017.

The report homeworking, which looks at hours, pay and career opportunities between 2011 and 2020, also showed that people who worked remotely were around 38% less likely on average to have received a bonus compared with those who never worked from home between 2013 and 2020.

Prior to the health crisis people who worked mainly at home were paid on average 6.8% less than those who never worked from home, after controlling for relevant factors such as age, occupation and industry.

However, during 2020, remote workers were paid 9.2% more on average than those who never worked from home as they were better able to continue working despite lockdown restrictions.

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, 35.9% of the employed population did some work at home in 2020, an increase of 9.4 percentage points compared to the year before. This also included a change in the type of people who worked from home.

Previous studies have shown that employees in higher-paying jobs are more likely to be able to work from home.

The ONS also revealed that people who completed work from home last year put in an extra 6 hours of unpaid overtime on average per week, compared with 3.6 hours for those that never worked from home.

Homeworkers work a higher number of hours than those who never work from home. Chart: ONS
Homeworkers work a higher number of hours than those who never work from home. Chart: ONS

The times people started work also shifted during the pandemic. In April last year, more homeworkers worked earlier in the morning.

After 5pm, those working from home were less likely to be working than those who were away from home.

However, this changed in September, with a greater proportion of employees at home likely to be working between 6pm and 11pm compared with those working away from home.

In 2015, the average start time for workers working away from home was 9.13am – this changed to 9.44am in April 2020 and 9.37am in September 2020. For homeworkers, the average start time was pushed back from 12.47pm in 2015 to 10.15am in April 2020 and 10.45am in September 2020.

As a result of workers being on furlough or temporarily away from work, the coronavirus pandemic caused a reduction in average weekly hours worked in 2020. Compared with the year before, hours worked fell by a greater amount amongst those who reported never doing any work from home versus with those who did some work from home.

READ MORE: We need to stop confusing home-working with days off

Additionally, remote workers had a sickness absence rate of 0.9%, equivalent to 2 days lost per worker last year, while those that never worked from home had a higher sickness absence of 2.2%, equivalent to 4.3 days lost per worker.

The sickness absence rate is calculated as the percentage of working hours that are lost due to sickness absence.

The industry with the highest proportion of homeworkers last year was information and communication, where 62% of employees were mainly based at home.

Those least likely to be working from home were employed in accommodation and food service, transport, and retail.

London had the highest rates of home working during the 2020, while areas of Scotland and the north of England had the lowest.

READ MORE: Are remote workers bottling up their stress?

“What’s clear from this report is that people who work from home more are less likely to receive bonuses and may be hindering their chances of promotion,” Sarah Loates, founder of Derby-based Loates HR Consultancy, said.

“One often overlooked downside of a hybrid approach is the potential for a '2-tier' system of employment to emerge. Often, this is because people choosing to spend a larger proportion of their time in the office are seen as 'more committed' than colleagues who opt to work from home more.

She added: "In the corporate world, working from home can also mean you are not 'present' when career opportunities informally present themselves, for example, during a water cooler conversation or cigarette or vape break.

“In other words, people who work from home more could potentially lose out on projects that could enhance their CVs, and increase their chances of promotion.”

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