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How work changed in 2022

Commuters walk at the Waterloo station during a tube strike, in London, Britain, November 26, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson
For many of us the arduous five days a week commute is over. Photo: Tom Nicholson/Reuters. (Tom Nicholson / reuters)

The days of the arduous daily commute are gone. With post-COVID flexible working now a mainstay in the UK, more people are opting to either work from home full-time, or they are only working "in office" for part of their week. But how else has work changed this year ⁠— and what does the future hold for flexible workers?

Almost half of working adults were working from home at times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, remote ⁠— or hybrid ⁠— working has become the de facto work pattern for many people, who want to create a more equal balance between their work and personal lives.

At the start of this year, data from the Office for National Statistics found 84% of workers who had to work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic said they planned to carry out a mix of home-working and office work in the future.

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Around one in seven working adults (14%) worked from home exclusively between April and May 2022, while nearly a quarter (24%) worked from home and travelled to work.

Read more: Real wages shrank by nearly £80 a month this year, says TUC

However, there was a disparity between lower and higher earners ⁠— with those on salaries over £40,000 more likely to work from home exclusively.

According to new research by FlexJobs, 48% of US employers are maintaining some form of remote work for their workforce.

“The demand for remote work is strong,” said Sara Sutton, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs.

“Across industries, companies and workers have experienced the valuable benefits remote work brings. As a result, the widespread interest and adoption of remote-friendly practices are clear signals that remote work’s lasting impact on the world of work will be felt well into 2023 and for many years to come.”

Wide shot of mother working on laptop while family plays in living room
For many parents the right to work at home enables them to spend more time with their children. Photo: Getty (Thomas Barwick via Getty Images)

Flexible working rights

A number of large companies have embraced the home-working trend in 2022, with Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), Unilever (ULVR.L), ASDA and others offering work-from-home or hybrid options.

Some have gone a step further, with Yelp (YELP) CEO Jeremy Stoppelman announcing the company would go fully remote and close their office spaces in several major US cities, including New York City.

In the UK, forthcoming legislative changes aim to give more people a chance to work flexibly. In December, it was announced that employees will have the right to request flexible working from the moment they start a job.

Currently, workers have to have been in a role for 26 weeks before they can make such a request ⁠— which created a significant barrier to those wanting to work from home, job share or work flexitime or compressed hours.

Read more: My first boss: Rachel Watkyn, Tiny Box Company founder

Under the new legislation, employers will be required to discuss other options before rejecting a request. For example, changing an employee’s working hours on some days but not all. However, workers will still only have the right to ask to work flexibly ⁠— not the right to do so.

And not all bosses will be on board. Earlier this year, the then minister for government efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg was criticised for leaving “condescending” notes on the desks of civil servants who were not in the office, in an effort to discourage working from home.

Benefits of flexible working

While not all bosses are on board with flexible working practices, a growing body of research shows the benefits. For workers, the positives of working from home or hybrid working are clear ⁠— less time is wasted commuting and people get more time for themselves or their families. Additionally, though, employers can reap the benefits too.

Ultimately, happier workers are more productive workers ⁠— which is good news for company bottom lines.

One of the key benefits is that flexible working allows employees to work more during the hours they are most productive. In a survey conducted by Airtasker, remote employees worked 1.4 more days every month ⁠— or 16.8 more days every year – than office workers.

Read more: Top tips to give yourself a Christmas bonus

A separate study found that employees with access to remote work had lower rates of burnout ⁠— particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic ⁠— and were more productive. In 2021, employers are reported increased productivity benefits from home-working.

Allowing employees to work flexible schedules can also help retain staff and cut back on hiring costs, too. In fact, a Flexjobs survey found that 80% of respondents said they'd be more loyal to their employer if they provided flexible working arrangements.

A young boy leaping into his fathers arms from a log while messing around in a playground at the park together.
Studies have found that physical and mental health improved while absenteeism and the number of resignations fell when workers were allowed to do a four day week on full pay. Photo: Getty (Tom Werner via Getty Images)

The move to a four-day week

One of the ways companies are looking to improve productivity and work-life balance is by introducing shorter working weeks.

June saw the launch of a four-day week trial involving UK companies ⁠— thought to be one of the world's biggest pilot schemes into the novel working arrangement.

Run by academics from Oxford and Cambridge university, the scheme saw workers earn 100% of their wages for fewer hours’ work in a bid to boost productivity. While the full results aren’t due until 2023, what we know so far looks promising.

Read more: 2022: Year in review

A report by 4 Day Week Global found that the physical and mental health of worker improved, as well as their work-life balance and job satisfaction. While absenteeism and the number of resignations fell.

Some firms ⁠— including Atom Bank and the marketing firm Awin ⁠— have signed up for a permanent four-day week as a result of the trial. And while this is only a fraction of the firms in the UK, it may well be the sign of things to come in the shift towards widespread flexible working.

Watch: Why do we still have a gender pay gap?