A long-term ambition to see a third of workers in Wales working from home or close to permanently post-Covid has been revealed.
The Welsh Government said that as well as helping to reduce congestion and pollution levels the change in working culture would give more people the choice to work in a way that helps boost 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.
However, post-Covid the Welsh Government said it wants workers to continue to have the flexibility to work remotely, claiming it also has the potential to drive regeneration and economic activity in communities.
There are currently around 1.4 million employed in Wales, of which around 26% are employed in the public sector. If the third aim is achieved this would see nearly 500,000 working from home or close to.
It said it also recognises the importance of learning lessons on issues such as mental health support, childcare arrangements and more innovative housing design.
To support a permanent shift the Welsh Government is proposing a network of community-based remote working hubs offering 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.
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.”
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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.”