Ways of Working Trends in the UK: What Has Changed?

Published on May 2, 2023

Updated on Aug 25, 2023

Written by Mariana Marques

Remember in early 2020 when we thought the pandemic would last just a few weeks, there was nothing to be scared about, and we would be back in the office in no time? That clearly didn’t age well. The UK government announced the first nationwide lockdown on the 23rd of March 2020 - more than three years ago. Three lockdowns down, a lot about society has changed. 

Working from home became the norm during the pandemic, as the world of work had to adapt to unprecedented circumstances. But the shift between office and home office, which we all thought was just as temporary as carrying hand sanitizers in our bags, turned out to be a long-term, highly impactful change. 

In this article, we share the latest trends in ways of working in the UK, taking into account the impacts of the pandemic, and how remote options change depending on the occupations in question. Let’s dive in. 

Employers more likely to specify ways of working 

Pre-pandemic, there was no such thing as “ways of working” for most employees, and working from home wasn’t something we would typically hear about. In the last half of 2019, only 2% of job postings mentioned some kind of ways of working - be it remote, hybrid or non-remote positions.  

The growth has been rampant since then, reaching its peak in around August 2021. As of the end of 2022, 10% of UK job postings specified ways of working - three times more than in 2019. 

And it wasn’t just remote and hybrid positions being mentioned more, but non-remote positions too. The percentage of job postings specifying non-remote options grew from 0.27% in pre-pandemic times, to 0.83% as of late 2022.   

Arguably, this could mean that increasingly more employees are interested in knowing work arrangements prior to applying for a role, or have stronger working preferences than they had pre-pandemic. By specifying this information, companies are able to find talent that is looking for the work arrangements they offer, and avoid wasting time moving unsuitable candidates along the application process. 

Remote work is here to stay 

Before the pandemic, only 1.4% of jobs offered remote work in the UK, and barely any offered hybrid. Post-pandemic, the picture is very different: almost 8% of all UK job postings offer remote arrangements, and a further 1.15% offer a hybrid model. 

We can see that the biggest jump occurred between June and December 2020 - around the time when our hopes that the pandemic was ephemeral were crashed, and we all learned to adapt to the “new normal” - an expression we are all sick of hearing by now.

Since June 2021, the share of job postings that offer remote and hybrid roles has been relatively stagnant, despite restrictions being lifted. This means that the WFH phenomenon wasn’t exclusive to the pandemic, and is definitely here to stay. 

Despite hybrid options being a middle ground between our work arrangements pre-pandemic (office-based) and the fully remote settings we had during lockdowns, hybrid arrangements aren’t remotely as popular as remote - we can see that WFH takes an unbeatable majority of all the UK job postings specifying ways of working. 

Regional Remote Working Trends across the UK

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Not all jobs can be done remotely 

Yes, remote working is here to stay and remains widely popular. But looking at the bigger picture, and taking into consideration all occupations, more than 90% of jobs still require employees to be at their place of work. The ability to work from home varies widely depending on the type of occupation.

High-skilled occupations have seen a notable increase in remote options in job postings since the beginning of the pandemic. In 2019, only 2% of job postings for high-skilled occupations were remote, compared to slightly over 12% as of late 2022 - a drastic 10% increase. 

Despite having seen a smaller growth since 2021, this share is significantly bigger than the share of job postings for mid and low-skilled occupations offering remote options. Plus, while working from home is increasing for high and mid-skilled occupations, it is actually decreasing in low-skilled occupations. 

Large cities with potentially more high-skilled jobs will therefore show a much higher percentage of remote roles too, and we can see this trend growing more substantially. Other areas where mid and low-skilled occupations are prevalent are settling closer to pre-pandemic levels.

The business implications of this change in ways of working

Remote working is popular nationwide, but what is even more popular and interesting to point out is candidates’ interest in knowing the working models companies are offering. Secrecy in job postings doesn’t seem to work anymore, so it’s important to detail all the requirements and perks when advertising for a role - including its location. 

According to a recent study by Harvard Business Review, 88% of “knowledge”, high-skilled employees look for full flexibility with hours and location when searching for a new role. The pandemic made the “life first, career second” motto more noticeable, with employees prioritising their personal interests and time with family over an hours-long commute and a hot desk in the city centre. 

Employers seem to be responding to this, with a quarter of London-based companies downsizing their offices, and a further 18% opting for coworking and flexible office spaces. While investment in real estate is reducing, investment in technology is increasing to enable agile working in remote-based teams. 

Understanding ways of working trends 

Flexibility is the future for high-skilled occupations, and organisations and talent leaders need to adapt to this as best as they can by understanding what their talent is looking for, and which roles are more suitable to remote working arrangements. 

Whether you are a UK business looking to boost your talent strategy for 2023 or a regional development agency looking to understand labour market trends in your region, we have the data you need. Get in touch with the Lightcast team below and let’s solve your labour market challenges together.

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