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New poll reveals that nearly half of Londoners who worked from home during lockdown said it impacted negatively on their mental health

Nearly half of Londoners (45 per cent) spent some time working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Out of those, 47 per cent said that it impacted negatively on their mental health, according to the latest survey from the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London.

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The poll, carried out by YouGov, also revealed that nearly a quarter of Londoners viewed working from home positively (23 per cent) but there may well have been differences between different demographics. Fewer Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Londoners believed working from home had a positive impact on mental health (16 per cent) compared to White Londoners (29 per cent).

Differences among Londoners 

Class appears to have made a difference too. Of those who had worked at home, middle class Londoners were more likely (25 per cent) than working class Londoners to say it had a positive effect (17 per cent). They were also less likely to say the effect was negative (45 per cent compared to 53 per cent).

Only a quarter (26 per cent) of those Londoners who had worked from home said they preferred to work from their usual place of work.  Indeed, some 42 per cent of those who had worked from home said they preferred it, while 27 per cent said they were happy either way. Younger adults, though, were less likely to be keen on working from home than their older counterparts.

Co-Director of the Mile End Institute, Professor Tim Bale, said: “Our research suggests that working from home can impose considerable stresses and strains – especially perhaps for those living in less spacious flats and houses. But it also suggests that, even when those are taken into account, two thirds of Londoners either preferred it to going out to work or were happy either way – almost certainly because it provide them with a better work/life balance and cuts down on the dreaded commute. It does look, though, as if younger people are less keen on working from home than other groups.”

Work/life balance

Nearly two thirds of Londoners who said they had actually preferred working from home cited better work/life balance (63 per cent) and saving commuting time (61 per cent) as their reasons. Perhaps surprisingly, the proportion of people who cited childcare as the reason was low across all age groups (12 per cent).

When it comes to Londoners who preferred their usual workplace to working from home, a fifth (20 per cent) said that this was because they did not have a suitable place to work from at home. But this was dwarfed by over half (52 per cent) who mentioned face to face contact and nearly half (44 per cent) who thought it provided a more stimulating work environment.

Professor Bale added: “There will always be people who’d really rather prefer to get out of the house to go to work – mainly, our survey suggests, because they value the chance to interact with colleagues. Virtual meetings don’t necessarily cut it.” 

Of those who did not work from home during the pandemic, nearly four out of five (78 per cent) reported that this was because their jobs simply could not be done from home. Interestingly, only a tiny fraction of Londoners who did not work from home (four per cent) reported that whilst their job could have been done from home, their employer did not allow it.

Gap closing on Sadiq Khan

Londoners were also asked for their views on the London mayoral race. The poll showed first round support for Conservative contender Shaun Bailey rising from 24 per cent in early March to 30 per cent in mid-November. However Sadiq Khan has seen his backing in the initial round increase from 49 per cent to 51 per cent, meaning he could possibly gain a second term without the contest even going to a second round of counting.

If it did go to a further round, Sadiq Khan would win nearly twice as many second-choice votes than Shaun Bailey (64 per cent to 36 per cent), according to the poll, giving him a comfortable victory. Speaking to the Evening Standard, Professor Tim Bale said: "Even if Sadiq Khan doesn’t pull off a first-round win — which is fairly unlikely even with the lead he has at the moment — Shaun Bailey would have to make up an awful lot of ground before he’d stand even a slim chance of a surprise victory next year."

The latest results are consistent with previous Mile End Institute polling published in November 2019 which showed Sadiq Khan was on course for victory in the London mayoral election. 

More information

Fieldwork was conducted online between 16 and 19 November 2020. Total sample size was 1,048 adults living in inner and outer London. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in London (aged 18+). YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council and abide by their rules.