The Welsh Government this week announced that it plans to encourage 30% of the Welsh workforce to continue to work from home following the coronavirus pandemic.
It is the Government’s “long term ambition” to support workers who work from home in a way that “helps their productivity as well as their work-life balance”, the Welsh Government announced in a statement on Monday.
It is hoped that encouraging workers to work from home post-pandemic will continue to support local economies and help “drive regeneration” in Wales’ local communities.
As a result of a partial move to home working, the Welsh Government hopes to reduce road pollution and overcrowding on public transport, with emphasis placed on a “hybrid model” of home working. This sees the choice about whether to work from home, office, or a “hub location” placed in the hands of employers and employees.
The Government is seeking to drive change without passing any legislation in the Senedd, though it is clear that the new messaging appears at odds with Boris Johnson’s calls for workers to return to offices and support inner-city economies.
Indeed, the debate about whether to return to the office has been fuelled by a need to revive inner-city economies, many of which have been affected by a drastic and sudden fall in footfall. Workplaces continue to be exempt from laws that prevent more than six people gathering inside, in a bid to encourage a return to office culture.
“Integral” to the economy
Like elsewhere, many workers found themselves working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, until recently, closed schools and offices.
Announcing the news, Lee Walters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, said that the Government “believe many people will want to continue to work remotely in the longer term and this could be a step-change in the way we work in Wales”.
“We are also conscious of the needs of those for whom – for various reasons – home working is not a viable option,” he added. For some, lagging infrastructure has exposed poor internet connections and interrupted online meetings, especially in rural communities, like those in Wales.
Home working is “integral to how our economy functions” said Walters.
“It has to be a choice”
In response to the proposals from the Welsh Government, not all were completely convinced.
Helen Mary Jones, Plaid Cymru’s shadow Economy Secretary, said that whilst there are clear benefits, additional investment in infrastructure, such as broadband, would be required to ensure Wales reaps all the benefits of homeworking.
“It also has to be a choice,” she said, though the hybrid model proposed by the Welsh Government hands the decision about where to work to employers and employees.
“Working from home is simply not an option for many – be that because of cramped housing or a range of other reasons,” the Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales added.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rear its head and cases rise, workers in Wales may face homeworking for the foreseeable future. The Welsh Government’s plans appear to seek to prepare the economy for coping with the next stage of the virus.
With a 35% positive increase in work-life balance and a 14% increase in productivity, it’s easy to see why homeworking could be a popular option for employers in Wales.twitter Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics. Politics Morgan Perry