More than half of employees still going in to work, ONS data shows

Latest figures reveal a slight drop following the change in government guidance, and a small increase in the number conducting their roles exclusively from home

More than half of UK workers are still travelling to a workplace, despite the recent change in government advice.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that, despite the intervention from the prime minister Boris Johnson last week (on 22 September) calling on workers to return to conducting their roles from home where possible, there was only a small drop in the proportion of people travelling to work.

Between 25 and 27 September, 59 per cent of people surveyed reported travelling to work at some point during that week – a slight drop from 64 per cent the previous week. 

The figures did show a slight uptick in the proportion of people working exclusively from home, increasing to 24 per cent from 21 per cent the previous week.

When the government announced a U-turn on its guidance around working from home – reversing its encouragement in July that workers should “start to go back to work now if [they] can” – many employers had already launched extensive programmes to phase their workforces back into the office.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, urged employers considering whether to keep offices open to balance the needs of those staff struggling to work from home with the importance of respecting the latest health and safety guidance.

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Speaking after the prime minister’s announcement last week, Willmott said: “If someone is really struggling through stress or anxiety related to working from home and their wellbeing is supported by being in the workplace then, provided the workplace is as Covid resistant as possible, it is about working to meet individuals' choice and preference in terms of where and how they want to work.”

But, he added, employees needed “specific reasons [...] to be in the workplace”, which might include wellbeing issues.

The ONS figures also showed 11 per cent of the workforce was still on furlough, while 85 per cent of businesses were trading – a slight improvement on the previous week’s figures of 12 and 84 per cent respectively.

There was also an increase in the number of jobs advertised online, according to figures provided to the ONS by Adzuna. Between 18 and 25 September the total number of online job postings increased from 55 per cent to 59 per cent of their 2019 average – their highest recorded level since early April. 

The volume of adverts increased in every region and nation of the UK, with Wales seeing the largest increase to 73 per cent of its 2019 average.