BORIS Johnson’s drive to get more people back at their desks was dealt a fresh blow when the Welsh minister said up to a third of people can work from home.
The devolved government believes about 30 per cent of people should be able to continuing working from or near their homes even when the pandemic is over.
But it is at odds with the PM’s appeal to save millions of jobs by revitalising towns and cities left deserted since the crisis began in March.
Fewer people working in offices in has led to fewer traffic jams, less pollution and private car use – and the Labour-run Welsh assembly is happy to see it continue.
Ministers say having the flexibility to work remotely can improve the work-life balance of employees and employers, as well as potentially driving regeneration and economic activity in communities.
They intend to develop a hybrid workplace model, with staff either working in the office, at home or in community-based remote working hubs.
The hubs, which would be within walking and cycling distance of people’s homes, could be used by public and private employees as well as volunteers and those at not-for-profit organisations.
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 per cent of the Welsh workforce working remotely on a regular basis.”
Issues such as mental health support, childcare arrangements and more innovative housing design will also be considered as part of the plans.
The remote working hubs could also be used to help encourage new partnerships between the Welsh Government, local authorities and industries.
Hannah Blythyn, deputy minister for housing and local government, said home working would change how town centres and high streets were used.
“Our aim is to once again make town centres vibrant, relevant and vital to the communities they serve,” she said.
“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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