England’s south west holds the UK’s highest population of homeworkers

Two years ago, when Yahoo announced that they would be terminating their homeworking policy, many experts foretold the beginning of the end. Flexible working had had its day, and soon Britain’s workforce would be office-bound once more. Time has told a very different story however, and with the rise of the freelancer, it seems that employers have once again discovered that a flexible workforce is a more productive workforce.

Recently, the Office for National Statistics reported that there were 4.2 million ‘home workers’ in the UK, doubling the 1998 figure garnered when these statistics first started to be recorded. The number included:

  • the self-employed
  • the so-called ‘telecommuters’ (those traditionally employed working remotely)
  • and the freelancers.

Notably, the numbers were fairly evenly distributed throughout the UK, with a range of between 10.7 (Scotland) and 17.1 (South West England) per cent of workers in each region stating that they earned their living from home. Londoners maintained the middle ground, with 13.6 per cent of workers working from home, indicating that England’s capital city may not necessarily continue to be the nation’s business hub, should the homeworking trend progress.

Birmingham (PD)

Areas of Growth and Decline

While homeworking comes in many forms, it seems that freelance working within the creative industries – an area categorised as work that is based around the generation or exploitation of knowledge and information, rather than traditional manufacturing and financial sectors – has seen the largest growth in recent years. According to PeoplePerHour, the UK’s leading online freelance marketplace, there has been a 433 per cent increase in freelance working in the UK since 2012, with 69.3 per cent of those freelance workers living and working outside of the greater London area.

Greater Manchester seems to be the most popular county in the UK for freelance workers at present, with 5.7 per cent of the nation’s freelancers in residence. The list of the top five freelancing locations is completed below.

  • Birmingham 3.4%
  • Bristol 3.3%
  • Leeds 2.6%
  • Glasgow 2.3%

Contrastingly, other counties have seen a significant shrinkage in the number of freelance workers. Godalming has seen a massive 82 per cent decline in the number of freelance and self-employed workers living in the county. Barnstable and North Shields have also seen a similar regression, each losing 82 per cent of their freelance population since 2013.

The reasons for this remain unclear, but it does seem that where employers have had a positive experience of freelance workers there is more willingness to both outsource additional work in the future and to allow their employed members of staff to work from home.

What is Driving the Changing Place of Britain’s Workforce

  • Technology – with improved communication comes increased flexibility. With a computing device, a telephone and a good internet connection, workers can access the entire business world from their homes.
  • Trust – Employers traditionally distrust their workforce, believing that lack of supervision will inevitably lead to a lack of results. A single positive experience with a single freelancer can change this outlook – if homeworkers of any kind wish to be paid, and to secure future work, it is in their interest to ensure that they deliver the highest degree of productivity and the best standard of work.
  • Benefits – Employers are discovering that homeworkers, contractors and freelancers cost less. Not just financially, but in terms of days lost to sickness and holidays. Savings are even being made in areas such as heating, electricity and the provision of staff facilities – when employees work from home, the majority of these things become unnecessary.

Fourteen per cent of the UK’s workforce now benefits from flexible working, and figures would indicate that it’s a trend set to grow, bringing benefits to employers and employees alike. Employees are able to earn more and spend less, saving time and money through removing the daily commute, while working at times that suit their lifestyle. Employers are able to profit from the ability to reach the most talented individuals from around the world, rather than just those who happen to live in the local vicinity.

The face of the UK’s workplace and workforce has changed significantly in the last five to ten years, and that change would appear to be a positive one for all concerned.

PeoplePerHour Founder & CEO Xenios Thrasyvoulou comments:

There’s no denying that homeworking in the UK has reached new heights in the last few years, but it’s interesting to see that 69.3% of UK’s homeworkers live outside of London.

‘Our research has shown that there has been a 433 per cent increase in freelance working in the UK since 2012 and it's surprising to see Greater Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol being the most popular locations in the UK for freelance workers at present. It seems that the face of Britain's workforce has changed irreversibly and the future of work is flexible freelancing.'

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