Working From Home is Not a Privilege
On Wednesday 11th November Deutsche Bank released a report arguing that staff who work from home should pay more tax, with the proceeds going to ‘lower-paid’ workers who cannot work from home.
The report claims that individuals working from home should be taxed for the ‘privilege’ as they are now making savings on commuting and not buying lunch-on-the-go.
As a professional who urges people to think differently about how we work so we can all thrive; this argument is archaic in helping the UK finally move out of its dark ages workplace attitude.
There are a number of points I would like to address in concern to this dangerous and quite frankly outdated mindset towards working from home.
No Privilege Here
Under the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of privilege is “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.”
In its current COVID state, working from home is not a privilege – we have to remember working from home has been government-enforced.
Pre-COVID, we could have very easily argued that working from home was a privilege; It was often handed out to the chosen few who had earned the trust and respect of their managers. That’s a privilege.
However, the current state of working from home has seen people trying to juggle homeschooling their children with full-time work, and seen inequality in the working spaces people have available – everything from working in a bedroom to the kitchen table, with often little help from their employers.
And we must be clear – working from home isn’t a choice everyone would make. It doesn’t suit everyone.
WFH as a Choice
Beyond COVID-19, I know many businesses who are looking to adopt a hybrid form of working whether that’s a combination of home working and office working, or flexible working variations.
To now deter people and businesses in finding a way of working that supports their business and people to create a better work-life balance feels like a backwards step.
We must remember that it took a global pandemic for more businesses to realise that work can be done away from an office.
Pre-COVID flexible working requests were regularly denied, and only 5% of the UK workforce worked remotely.
To tax businesses or individuals for working from home only leads to more businesses deciding not to choose better working practices post-COVID.
If there’s one thing this global pandemic gave us, it was the systematic shake-up of businesses mindset towards remote and flexible working.
We should all be able to make choices about how and where we work. After all, we know ourselves the best and know the things that do and don’t work for our own productivity.
To class working from home as a privilege, is to class choice as a privilege. Freedom of choice is not a privilege; it is a human right.
WFH Could Save Us
The fact of the matter is, working from home, while doesn’t work for everyone, could be a choice that supports business, people, and the planet. It’s a win-win-win situation, which makes the argument of taxing working from home all the more ludicrous. Here’s why;
WFH Creates More Jobs
The choice of working from home enables more people into employment who may traditionally have struggled with a typical office job.
Disabled people have to apply for 60% more jobs than able-bodied workers, and it can take on average nine months for them to find a role that provides them with the support they need.
Those with disabilities have tirelessly campaigned for more flexible and remote working opportunities. Working from home provides better support and opportunities for disabled workers which should be a priority for the UK government.
A report issued by Scope, one the UK’s leading disability charities revealed that providing better working conditions for the needs of disabled people could add £14 billion to the UK economy.
If more businesses could embrace flexible or remote working variations, many more disabled people could join the workplace.
One case study featured in a Raconteur report on the impact of flexible working on the disabled clearly reveals the urgent change in attitude and practice that needs to happen in businesses.
Annie, 33, has fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis and has been made redundant several times because of her medical problems, with employers often denying her requests.
“Flexible working for everyone now is great in that it normalises it for disabled people,” she says. But she adds that the work-from-home experiment has been frustrating, as disabled people have been asking for flexible working for years.
“Having remote working forced on businesses has helped them see productivity improves, mental health improves and people enjoy the work-life balance,” she says.
WFH Reduces Carbon Emissions
Admittedly we have been in a state of extreme working from home – with life outside of our own four walls practically non-existent.
Which means due to the worldwide lockdowns we have seen a record drop in global emissions.
You may think to keep up this kind of climate control we may need to continue lockdown life. But in reality, even switching to a remote working or flexible working model could dramatically enhance our environmental credentials.
Researchers estimate that by reducing commuting, lowering workplace energy, and adopting a shorter work week, you could cut a nation’s carbon emissions by between 16-30 per cent.
The link between work and climate change has now been studied around the world, and the evidence points to the same conclusion – it’s not just how we’re living, but how we’re working that is also causing the biggest damage to our environment.
If the UK is determined to hit its environmental goals by 2025, it will drop any ideas about implementing a tax on working from home, and instead look to create policies and funding that can support more remote and flexible working.
WFH Can Increase Regional Development
Commuting to big cities for work has left many areas in the UK in economic poverty.
People are lured away from towns and villages to gain better-paid work in bigger cities.
As people find work, they move away from regional areas, raising their families closer to the big cities. And so they are lost forever to the big city life leaving their hometown worse off.
However, if more remote working and working from home could be adopted, people wouldn’t have to move to bigger cities for work or for better pay.
In turn, this would mean they would raise their family in regional areas, and spend their money locally, meaning areas of low economic development begin to thrive.
Talent remains in the area, more investment is put into schools and amenities, and rather than just create a great work-life balance; you help to rebuild an entire region.
For a long time in the world of business, having a big city postcode has been a marker of trust and recognition. But does it really matter where your business is located if it is at a detriment to your people and the planet?
Working from home can provide a boost to regional development that is desperately needed.
In light of the potential working from home tax, I certainly hope I’ve proved that from an economic and social perspective, it would cause unnecessary harm and take us further away from a future of work that could truly benefit everyone.