Plans have been unveiled to allow a third of all Welsh workers to continue to work from home long-term, contradicting Boris Johnson’s ‘back to the office’ message.
The Welsh Government is encouraging people to carry on doing their jobs remotely, even after the coronavirus crisis ends.
It’s set a target of 30% of the country’s entire workforce to work from or near home in future because it will help to reduce pollution and congestion.
The UK Government has been pushing for people to go back into the office, in part, because businesses in city centres are struggling.
Boris Johnson said at the start of August that people ‘should be going back to work now’ and workplaces have been exempted from the new ‘rule of six’ that comes into place on Monday.
Ministers in Wales have gone in a different direction however and say having the flexibility to work remotely can improve people’s work-life balance.
They are planning to open community-based ‘remote working hubs’ to support a ‘hybrid model’ that will see staff either work from the office, home or a hub.
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.’
He added: ‘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.’
As in much of the rest of the world, far more people in Wales began working from home as coronavirus hit.
Issues such as mental health support, childcare arrangements and more innovative housing design will also be considered as part of the plans.
Helen Mary Jones, shadow economy secretary for Plaid Cymru, said the coronavirus pandemic had shown that home working can benefit both organisations and employees.
But, she said, the Welsh Government needed to provide people with the tools to do this effectively, such as increasing investment in broadband and other communications technologies.
‘It also has to be a choice,’ the member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales said.
‘Working from home is simply not an option for many – be that because of cramped housing or a range of other reasons.
‘Equally for many the office can be a refuge from problems at home or a place to develop new friendships.
‘This pandemic will undoubtedly change the way we work. The Labour Government need to make sure our economy and infrastructure is ready for that.’
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