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Today, we at Bright Blue launched our latest report, No place like home? The benefits and challenges of home working during the pandemic. Made possible by the partnership of Barrow Cadbury Trust and Trust for London, this extremely timely report investigated the nature of home working during the pandemic. 

Synthesising original Bright Blue polling and dataset analysis with existing literature on home working from both before and during the pandemic, the report explores the experiences of pandemic home workers, and particularly how those experiences varied among different socio-demographic groups, detailing both the leading non-financial benefits and challenges of home working during the pandemic.

We found that home working has become a very common experience across the UK, with the vast majority (68%) of UK workers having home worked at least some of the time since the start of the pandemic. This appears to have had a profound normalising effect – 51% of pandemic home workers told us they would prefer to continue home working most of the time after the pandemic. 

Certainly, many pandemic home workers reported experiencing a diverse range of practical, psychological and social benefits as a result of the home working model. For example, 57% of pandemic home workers were clearly pleased to have left commuting behind, choosing ‘no commuting’ as one of their top three ‘best things’ about home working. 

Many pandemic home workers also felt their sense of control over their workload had increased, especially in terms of their daily routine (56%), their control over how they work (55%) and the hours they work (51%). 

For some, home working appears even to have led to improvements in family life – 37% of pandemic home workers reported an improved relationship with their partner as a result of home working, and 38% said the same of their relationships with their children. 

But pandemic home workers also reported a range of practical, psychological and social challenges.  

According to our research, practical challenges also plagued many pandemic home workers. Fifty-three percent said that ‘poor internet’ had been a problem at least sometimes, with other practical issues reported by a majority of pandemic home workers including ‘noise disturbances’ (55%), a ‘lack of space’ (51%), ‘lack of ventilation’ (38%) and mould (35%). 

Pandemic home workers also identified psychological challenges with home working. Forty-four percent of pandemic home workers agreed that they felt lonely more often while home working and 47% said that they find it harder to disengage from work while home working. 

Concerningly and very seriously, 11% of pandemic home workers said they had experienced domestic abuse between March 2020 and February 2021, in comparison with 1% of non-pandemic home workers. That risk was even higher for disabled pandemic home workers where 27% reported experiencing domestic abuse. 

Overall, our evidence showed that neither the benefits nor the challenges of home working during the pandemic that we identified have been felt evenly or equally between home workers of different socio-demographic backgrounds. With home working here to stay, that must be addressed.

In light of all we uncovered, Bright Blue has used the report to put forward the following policies that are designed to mitigate the challenges of home working, and increase access to the benefits of them.

  • Introduce the right to ten days of domestic abuse leave per year. We recommend that the Government introduce domestic abuse leave, giving all employees the right to ten days domestic abuse leave annually – five days paid and five days unpaid. All full-time employees who have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks will have the right to domestic abuse leave in line with other statutory rights such as paid parental leave and statutory sick pay. The right should also apply to part-time and casual workers, according to minimum hours worked rather than salary thresholds, as is the case with other statutory rights. As is the case in New Zealand, to claim their leave, including retroactively, workers must provide their employer with proof.


  • Require all employers with 50 or more employees to train an employee as a designated point of contact for domestic abuse victims. This should be applicable only to medium to large employers, meaning those with 50 or more employees, in line with other thresholds for exceptions for smaller businesses from certain regulations. Designated points of contact will have to complete five days of specialist training with an approved provider, and their responsibilities will be to: signpost colleagues who are victims of domestic abuse to support services and assist them in accessing those services; advocate on behalf of colleagues who victims of domestic abuse in work-related matters; act as a point of contact for colleagues who are concerned others may be the victims of domestic abuse; and raise awareness of knowledge of domestic abuse in their organisation.


  • Commit to an annual price-indexed uprating of the Warm Home Discount Scheme rebate. Through the WHD scheme, eligible low-income households receive a single annual rebate on their energy bills, the value of which has been frozen since 2014. The Government should commit to an annual price-indexed uprating of the value of the rebate offered by the Warm Home Discount Scheme.


  • Government introduction of a new home improvement scheme, to give government-backed grants to benefit claimants, and loans for everyone else, to address issues with damp, mould and ventilation. Private landlords and homeowners will be able to apply for a one-off, low-interest government-backed loan of up to £1,000 with a long-term repayment schedule through energy bills. In addition, homeowners in receipt of one of the following low-income benefits will be able to apply to the scheme for a one-off grant of up £1,000: Employment Support Allowance; Jobseekers Allowance; Working Tax Credit; and, Universal Credit with a monthly income of less than £1,349. Examples of improvements which would fall under this government-backed scheme include but are not limited to: loft insulation; extractor fan installation; vent installation; and, professional mould removal. Successful loan and grant applicants will receive a voucher that allows them to make the improvement on a named property, redeemable with proof of the improvement having been carried out including a dated invoice from the installer. The voucher amount will then be paid directly to the installer.


  • Legally oblige landlords to provide tenants with a decent internet connection. The Government should amend the Landlord and Tenant Act (1985) so that landlords are obligated to maintain tenants’ access to a decent internet connection, and maintain the installations necessary for the supply of that connection. This mirrors obligations to maintain the installations necessary for water, gas, and electricity in the Landlords and Tenants Act (1985) and reflects the crucial importance of an internet connection. We define decent internet according to Ofcom’s definition – a minimum download speed of 10 Mbit/s and a minimum upload speed of 1 Mbit/s.


  • Establish a 2030 Government target for full-fibre broadband rollout to the hardest to reach homes. The Government says it will aim to reach 85% of homes by 2025 and has set aside £5 billion to complete the rollout to the remaining 15% of hardest to reach homes, but has not yet committed to a date for this. It should commit to doing so by 2030.


  • Introduce a government-sponsored accreditation scheme to encourage employers to support and improve the work-life balance of their employees. We recommend that government, specifically BEIS, endorse a new accreditation scheme that aims to incentivise and encourage employers to improve and support the good work-life balance of their employees. Two levels of accreditation could be available under the scheme. For instance, to be eligible for level one accreditation, an employer could have to implement policies that actively encourage flexible working arrangements. To achieve the higher level two accreditation, as well as meeting the requirements of level one, an employer could need to apply for and cover the cost of an assessment to establish that the employer has worked proactively to create a culture of good work-life balance in their organisation beyond the requirements of level one, and that they are implementing new and innovative policies to better support and improve the work-life balance of their employees, such as a right to disconnect for all employees.


  • Introduce a government-sponsored award of £150,000 to encourage all employers to support and improve the work-life balance of their employees. All level two employers, regardless of size, would be made eligible for an annual prize of £150,000 in recognition of outstanding work in creating and supporting a good work-life balance for their employees.

Phoebe is a Senior Researcher at Bright Blue. The report she references is found in the report No place like home: The benefits and challenges of home working Views expressed in this article are those of the author, not necessarily those of Bright Blue. [Image:]