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May 11, 2022updated 23 Jun 2022 12:59pm

Flexible working boom in ‘Red Wall’ towns could aid the levelling up agenda

A boom in hybrid and remote working could aid the government's plan to redistribute job opportunities, new research shows.

By Afiq Fitri

Remote and hybrid working roles have more than tripled in towns and cities across the United Kingdom since January 2020, fuelling opportunities for people to stay in their local communities while working flexibly, according to data published by the recruitment platform Indeed in partnership with Zoom.

The data also shows that jobs with these arrangements have outpaced the local jobs market in 25 towns, with places such as Burnley seeing a fourfold increase in the amount of remote or hybrid roles on offer. Such opportunities could help boost the government’s so-called “levelling up” agenda, the report’s authors say.

UK hybrid work
Jobs with flexible working arrangements have surged in areas beyond London and the South East. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Job postings on Indeed were aggregated based on the location of the jobs which included terms like “remote work”, “telecommute”, “work from home”, and if remote working was explicitly mentioned.

The report identified the top 25 towns and cities across the country with the most significant growth in remote and hybrid job opportunities, based on an analysis of the difference in postings between February 2020 and March 2022. In all of these 25 areas, job adverts with remote and hybrid working options have more than tripled during this period. 

The town of Worthing saw the highest surge in remote roles being offered, with a 650% growth since February 2020 and a 50% increase in total jobs available compared to the same period. This was followed by Burnley, Stoke, Southend, and Dundee, areas where remote roles offered have quadrupled since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Just three of the locations identified in the study are situated in London and the South East, while ten are located in so-called ‘Red Wall’ areas, predominantly towns in Northern England which were previously strong Labour constituencies before switching to the Conservatives in the 2019 election. The data indicates that flexible working arrangements might aid the government’s levelling up agenda, which aims to redistribute job opportunities to these areas, the report says.

UK hybrid working: why flexible roles have boomed

This increase in flexible job opportunities in areas beyond traditional geographies of economic power suggests how greater access to remote roles can help to drive growth in overall opportunities, says Phil Perry, head of UK and EMEA at Zoom. 

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“We are now beginning to see how greater availability of hybrid roles is expanding opportunity in areas outside of London and the South East,” he adds. “This underlines the vital role hybrid technologies can play in levelling up the country, and getting the conditions right now will help the UK reap long-term economic benefits.” 

For businesses, having wider access to talent and accommodating potential employees with commitments that might preclude them from commuting into traditional offices every day is “especially valuable in a tight labour market”, says Jack Kennedy, an economist at Indeed. 

“The increased availability of remote and hybrid options across the UK is a boon for workers, giving them much greater choice over where they live and work,” he says. “Moreover, being able to offer employees better work-life balance means organisations can reap the benefits of a happier and more productive workforce.” 

Many businesses are currently grappling with how to organise their hybrid teams, with varying degrees of success. This week Tech Monitor reported that director of machine learning at Apple, Ian Goodfellow has quit the company over its requirement for employees to return to the office on three set days a week. “I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,” Goodfellow reportedly said. 

More Apple employees might follow suit, according to a recent survey conducted between April 13 to 19 which found that 76% were unhappy with the company’s return-to-work policy.

Read more: Is zero trust the answer to securing hybrid work?

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