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A whole new argument for working from home? A 9.5 percentage point rise in home working leads to a 4% fall in ransacked homes Photograph: Andriy Popov/Alamy

2.11.24 – The Guardian – Torsten Bell

The change in the way we do our jobs since the pandemic accounts for half of the 30% drop in break-ins since 2019

Almost none of the long-term changes people said the pandemic would bring have turned out to be true. The gratitude and respect for careers and lower earners didn’t last long once we were allowed to do something more exciting than clapping on our doorsteps. Even online shopping has fallen back to roughly where the pre-pandemic rise would have put it.

But one change has stuck: working from home (with the important caveat that it’s rocketed among the top half of earners in particular; those working in a shop or restaurant, not so much). What affect will this have? It clearly boosts wellbeing, and is helping more mothers work full time. The research on its productivity impact is far more mixed, and I’d say comes down to a score draw. The big clear win is less time spent commuting, the benefits of which are shared between employees and employers. The losses? Missing out on the less tangible benefits of interacting with colleagues, and humans more generally.

But new research brings a different angle to the debate, suggesting that home working doesn’t just cut commuting, it cuts crime. Specifically, burglaries, where the shift to working from home is given the credit for half of the 30% drop since 2019. A 9.5 percentage point rise in home working gets you a 4% fall in ransacked homes. There is a catch. More home working only cuts local burglaries if the surrounding neighbourhoods don’t have too much home working going on – basically, the burglars partly respond by heading to where the empty homes are.

This is a new argument for WFH, but I’m not sure it’ll convince skeptical bosses. They’ll start wondering if you’re actually working from home. Or just guarding the place.

 Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation and author of the forthcoming book Great Britain? How We Get Our Future Back