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After Covid: Working from home is long-term ambition

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image captionMinisters believe remote working can reduce congestion and improve flexibility

Nearly a third of people should still be working from homes, even when coronavirus restrictions have eased, says the Welsh Government.

Ministers said its ambition is to see about 30% of the workforce in Wales staying at or near home in the long term.

They said it was a chance to adopt culture that "supports remote working".

The move could reduce congestion and pollution, and improve work-life balance, they argue.

"The UK government instruction for everyone to go back to the office is not one we are repeating in Wales," said Deputy Minister for Transport and Economy, Lee Waters.

"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."

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The Welsh Government said it wanted to give workers "more flexibility to work remotely" and claimed this could "drive regeneration and economic activity in communities".

The ministers also suggested it would recognise "the importance of learning lessons on issues such as mental health support, childcare arrangements and more innovative housing design".

As part of its policy, officials said they were exploring how to develop a network of "community-based working hubs".

The hubs would be office-like environments within walking or cycling distance of homes, and shared by public, private and voluntary bodies.

"The intention is to develop a hybrid workplace model, where staff can work in the office, at home, or in a hub location," stated Welsh Government officials.

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image captionMany workers say they do not want to go back to their old offices

A recent report by academics at Cardiff and Southampton universities suggested the majority of people working from home are as productive as those working in office bases, if not more productive.

The Understanding Society Covid-19 Study also said nine out of 10 those who had worked from home during lockdown would like to continue in some form.

The UK government has pushed for people to return to office, with a campaign asking employers to reassure staff it is safe to return by highlighting measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The employers' organisation the CBI has warned city centres could become "ghost towns" if the prime minister does not do more to encourage staff back, with businesses relying on passing trade from office workers.

However, there has been suggestions that the shift could conversely boost local neighbourhoods and independent businesses.

Last week, the new chief executive of Wales' largest building society, Principality, said home working has been so successful many staff would not return to the office.

Julie-Ann Haines said: "Colleagues have demonstrated they can be as productive, and in some cases more productive, working from home than they were in the office".

'Get the balance right'

Wales TUC general secretary Shavanah Taj said there were "real benefits but some other concerns" with some workers saying home-working had had an effect on their mental health, along with fewer breaks and less socialising.

"We do need to get the balance right," she said.

Ms Taj said more home-working could also affect jobs in the hospitality sector which was "built around office spaces", adding that her organisation was working with the government to mitigate the risks.

"We do really need to think what is going to happen there," she said.

The Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, Hannah Blythyn added: "Home working will change how we use our town centres and high streets.

"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."

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