Tuesday, 19th October 2021

More hybrid working to bring 3.8 million Brits into employment

Major new study by Virgin Media O2 Business and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) shows an increase in hybrid working could bring 3.8 million people previously unable to work back into the workforce and could boost GDP by £48bn annually as part-time workers increase their working hours.

Hybrid working could bring nearly 4 million people “locked out” from work such as parents, carers and disabled people into the workforce and enable part-time workers to work more hours adding £48.3bn to the UK economy each year, according to a major new study by Virgin Media O2 Business and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).

The report found that 45% of Brits who are currently out of work would be able to start working if they could do so remotely. Unemployed carers are among the main beneficiaries with more than half (52%) more inclined to work remotely, along with parents (49%) and disabled people (40%) whose circumstances mean they’re locked out from fully-office or site-based work.

In total, increased hybrid working could mean an additional 3.8 million people could enter the workforce, including 1.2 million parents, 1.5 million people with disabilities, 500,000 with caring responsibilities and 600,000 others who are currently out of work.

This comes ahead of new Government proposals on flexible working which are expected to give employees the right to request flexible working arrangements as soon as they start a job.

The study, which examined how Covid-accelerated digital transformation will reshape the British economy, society and workforce, also revealed that the potential for part-time employees to work more hours could lead to an additional 1.27 billion hours worked every year.

Of the UK’s 8.6 million part-time workers, more than two fifths (43%) would increase their hours if they could work remotely. On average, hybrid working would enable part-time workers to work 5.1 more hours each week, with increases reported for disabled people (5 hours), parents (5.3 hours) and carers (6.8 hours). The number of extra hours worked could equate to 631,000 full-time employees entering employment and would provide a huge financial boost to some of the country’s poorest families.

Hybrid working could enable part-time workers to earn £3,600 a year of extra income, or £69 every week. Part-time carers, who would benefit most from remote working solutions and could work nearly 7 additional hours every week, could earn an additional £4,800 per year, or £92 every week*.

Overall, these extra hours worked in hybrid roles could boost GDP by £48.3bn every year – equivalent to a 2.4% uplift in GDP.

Employee and employers aligned on benefits of hybrid work

The report also reveals both employers and employees share similar views on hybrid working and both recognise many positive aspects of working more flexibly 18 months after lockdown restrictions were first imposed.

Employees report being more productive (36%), more in control of their work (34%), feel trusted (26%) and empowered (27%) with 20% of workers less distracted when working at home.

According to the research, business leaders share employees’ enthusiasm for hybrid working with more than two thirds (69%) believing changes to working policies driven by Covid-19 will be made permanent. This has been motivated by growing demand among employees for better work-life balance with 85% reporting that working remotely offers them additional leisure time to relax, see family and friends or spend time pursuing hobbies.

There is close alignment between organisations and their people on what they view as the optimal working arrangement in future, too. Employees now expect to work remotely 2.5 days per week, while company leaders also expect employees to work remotely about half of the week (2.3 days).

The report also highlights the critical role that sustained investment in hybrid working and digital technologies will play in helping the UK economy bounce back from Covid-19.

The increase in hybrid working, alongside the digital delivery of services and the use of big data by organisations across private and public sectors could lead to a boost of £76bn to UK GDP within just the next four years and result in a net uplift of £236bn by 2040. This figure is mostly additional to the boost the UK economy would receive by bringing 3.8m people back into work and encouraging part-time workers to work more hours in hybrid roles.

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