A Senedd committee has launched an inquiry into effects of remote working, aiming for 30 per cent of people working from home or close to home permanently.
The inquiry by the Economy Committee comes as research shows that over a half of workers in Wales worked at home for some or all of the time between April and June 2020 due to the pandemic.
The Welsh Government says that it is aiming to “work with organisations to support a long term shift to more people working remotely” and it is “exploring how a network of community-based remote working hubs, within walking or cycling distance of many people’s homes could be created in communities across Wales.”
It also says it has an ambition for “30 per cent of Welsh workers working from home or close to home” on a regular basis.
The Committee is investigating the effects of remote working on, the economy and business, town and city centres, issues affecting the workforce and skills, health and wellbeing, inequalities between different groups and different parts of Wales, the environment, the transport network and infrastructure.
It will hear from employers, workers and experts from within Wales and the UK but will also look at international examples where similar ambitions have been set.
The Committee is also looking at the impact of remote working on the transport network because of the major reduction in its use because of the pandemic.
At its lowest point during the lockdown, use of public transport in Wales was less than 20 per cent of the level it was compared to 31 January 2020. Car use was less than 40 per cent of the level it was compared to 31 January 2020.
According to the Welsh Government: “By 3 July 2020 car traffic had reached 80 per cent of pre-lockdown levels while public transport use had only recovered to 30 per cent” and that in July rail footfall in Wales was at around 12-15 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
Russell George MS, chair of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee said: “Remote working has dramatically impacted the way many work in Wales, with clear knock on effects. It has also divided opinion.
“It has had a positive effect on the environment, with fewer people driving to work, reducing congestion on the roads and improving air quality.
“However it has been a real challenge for many who may feel isolated and struggle to work from home for a range of reasons.
“The move to home working has also affected a range of businesses. Those who used to rely on the lunch time or after work rush from offices are struggling but I’ve also heard that cafes and coffeeshops away from town and city centres have found new customers as people head to them in their breaks.
“There has also been a severe impact on public transport with the number of bus and rail passengers at a small fraction of this time last year, meaning government is heavily subsidising the network.
“We’re keen to hear from people across Wales affected by remote working and to influence Welsh Government policy as it develops.”