In a surprise move, the Welsh Government has rejected the UK’s call for people to return to work and has stated that it wants 30% of its workforce to carry on working from home permanently.
Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, said: “The UK Government instruction for everyone to go back to the office is not one we are repeating in Wales. We 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, and will be exploring how a network of community-based remote working hubs could be created in communities.
“We have an opportunity to make Wales a country where working more flexibly is integral to how our economy functions, embedding a workplace culture that values and supports remote working. We aim to see around 30% of the Welsh workforce working remotely on a regular basis.”
The Welsh Government’s long-term ambition to see around 30% of Welsh workers working from home or near from home. This would be achieved by driving changes to Wales’ working culture that would give more people the choice to work in a way that helps their productivity as well as their work-life balance.
Coronavirus restrictions have seen fewer people working in offices, which has meant a fall in road congestion, pollution and private car use. The Welsh Government has said it wants to give workers across Wales more flexibility to work remotely and believes this has the potential to drive regeneration and economic activity in communities.
It also recognises the importance of learning lessons on issues such as mental health support, childcare arrangements and more innovative housing design.
As part of this, a network of community-based remote working hubs is also being explored which offers choices beyond a simple home/office split. These hubs, within walking and cycling distance of people’s homes, could be used by public, private and third-sector employees. They could also help encourage new partnerships to develop between Welsh Government, local government, industry, and others.
The intention is to develop a hybrid workplace model, where staff can work in the office, at home, or in a hub location. The aim is that this will enable 30% or more of workers to work remotely, helping reduce congestion and pollution and improving work-life balance for employees and employers.
The Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn, said: “Home working will change how we use our town centres and high streets. As part of our Transforming Towns approach we want to explore new opportunities for these areas, driving footfall by moving away from a purely retail model to one focused on a more diverse range of activity and opportunities. Our aim is to once again make town centres vibrant, relevant and vital to the communities they serve.
“As part of our work to support and revitalise our high streets and town centres we will be asking organisations, businesses and individuals to contribute to a major piece of work aimed at ensuring more people are living, working, shopping and learning there.”