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‘Hard evidence is lacking’ on the benefits of remote working


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IEA Editorial and Research Fellow Professor Len Shackleton wrote in The Daily Telegraph arguing that the benefits of working from home are likely overstated and opposing plans to for companies to allow flexible working from their employees.

Len wrote:

“Look closely at surveys proselytising the productivity benefits of home working. The majority are of employees, who are probably not the best judges of their own output and have an incentive to exaggerate. The evidence is largely anecdotal, as there are few properly controlled studies. Even when companies are consulted, it is typically HR departments, professionally gung-ho for homeworking, who respond – not those responsible for the productive side of the business.  

“The UK’s across-the-board productivity record has been dismal since the global financial crisis, but has deteriorated recently. In the public sector – which, even under a Conservative government accounts for a growing share of the overall economy – it’s in absolute decline. The ONS produces an experimental figure for public sector productivity, showing it fell by 1.3pc in the third quarter of 2022 alone. In the same period it rose in the private sector – albeit by a miserly 0.1pc.

“Has any politician stopped to ask why, if these new working practices are so beneficial, compulsion is needed? If businesses are not voluntarily entering into these arrangements, it may suggest these employers worry flexibility imposes significant costs.

Read Len’s full piece here.



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