· News

Low earners prefer working from home, but suffer financially for it

Research has indicated for the first time that low-paid workers benefit overwhelmingly from working at home, yet companies could do more to support them.

A report by think-tank Demos, commissioned and supported by housing association Stonewater, has shown that low-earning workers are finding themselves having more autonomy at work, a better work/life balance, stronger family relationships and better health.

Three quarters (75%) said that homeworking had helped their productivity, and more than two thirds (69%) said that it was good for their work/life balance.

Almost all low-paid homeworkers (94%) asked said they would prefer to continue to work from home at least some of the time in the future.

However, there are some areas where low-earning homeworkers may lose out compared with higher-earning colleagues.

Inequality in the pandemic:

Third lockdown pushes workplace inequalities to brink

Pay gap reporting is failing women as pay gap widens

Disabled employment back on track to pre-pandemic levels

Where higher earning homeworkers reported savings on average of £63 per month, low-paid workers (below £20,000pa) reported their costs rising £10 per month.

For some hybrid workers, the costs soared. On average, they had to pay out £39 more per month – £468 per year, and around half (46%) of low-paid hybrid workers are seeing this increase.

With winter coming, and energy bills rising, concerns have been raised over the hidden costs of companies’ changing working models.

A spokesperson for Demos said: “The costs of working from home – such as energy bills, food, broadband and equipment – have a greater impact on low earners relative to their income.” 

More than half (60%) of homeworkers report higher energy bills as a result of working from home, they added, so the rise in energy bills next year is likely to negatively impact low-paid homeworkers.

Similarly, they added: “Working irregular or hybrid working patterns could be more expensive for childcare than working in the office or from home full-time.”

Stephen Bevan, head of HR research and development at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), told HR magazine that Demos’ findings agreed with their own.

“Many people working from home found real benefits in increased flexibility and work/life balance," he said, yet employers must be mindful of the downsides.

“In particular, we found that younger and lower-paid workers were more susceptible to feelings of isolation and poorer mental health," Bevan added.

“These were linked to the challenges of living and working in cramped condition, and the extra costs of heating and lighting.”

Katy Neep, head of campaigning at Business in the Community, told HR magazine that businesses need to ensure any remote working policy is fair and just.

“To make work ‘work’ for everyone, and to ensure that no one is left behind, employers need to look at their policies and procedures to ensure that the benefits of hybrid working outweigh any negatives.”