New working habits have been formed during the pandemic and they appear to be here to stay, writes Kamilah Kamara, Insight Manager at Radiocentre.

On 16 March 2020, the UK government advised individuals to work from home, where possible. Millions of workers across the UK – many perhaps thinking they would be away from their offices for just a matter of weeks – packed up and journeyed home. They would continue to work from home (WFH) – either consistently or intermittently – for far longer.

This has led to the development of a new, valuable audience.

Who is the WFH consumer?

In February 2021, the UK’s Office for National Statistics reported that nearly half (46%) of working adults are working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But who are these people that can work from home? Radiocentre’s ‘New ways of working, New ways of connecting’ study sought to find out.

The audience working full-time from home can be found across the UK but is most likely to be found in London and the South – a reflection of the locations in which service industries are most concentrated. Within these industries, they tend to work in management, professional or clerical roles, often at a senior level.

This group of people tends to be young or middle-aged, with 83% aged 25–54. Perhaps most notable, at least as far as advertisers are concerned, is the fact that those working from home full-time have household incomes which are 45% greater than the national average.

An engaged and valuable audience

Radiocentre explored the spending habits of this valuable audience through the lens of commercial radio listeners.

Not only does this group have higher-than-average household incomes, but many of them have been saving money too: 63% of report to having saved money since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

While spending opportunities in-store have reduced due to the closure of non-essential businesses, those working from home have indulged in retail therapy online instead. From takeaways to flowers, pet food to recipe boxes – this group has certainly taken advantage of its extra disposable income during lockdown.

The spending intentions of the WFH audience

This group is comparatively well off, and many have been saving money too, but what will happen once COVID restrictions have been lifted?

Andy Haldane, the Chief Economist at the Bank of England, is optimistic. He described the UK economy as a “coiled spring” and expects there to be a rapid turn in sentiment, spending and the economy. He thinks this will occur because households have strengthened their finances due to forced restrictions on their spending. He also believes that, having been stuck indoors for a year, most people are desperate to get their lives back.

Radiocentre research supports this theory. For Radiocentre’s ‘Bounce-back and Beyond’ (May 2020) report, listeners WFH were asked about their spend intentions upon the relaxation of the first lockdown. The study showed that this group intended to increase spend (versus pre-lockdown levels) across a range of purchase types, with the largest increases expected for products and purchases that could be consumed alone/at home.

However, after many more months in and out of lockdown, spending intentions have shifted. The WFH group of commercial radio listeners still intends to increase its spend on products, but is even more likely to increase spend on activities and travel, the purchases most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. People want their lives back, and they’re willing to spend money to achieve this.

Connecting with the WFH consumer

Radiocentre’s new study shows that 56% of the WFH audience are commercial radio listeners, suggesting that an estimated eight million adults WFH also listen to commercial radio. Of these, 89% tell us they’re listening to more radio as they can play it in the background while working.

This suggests that commercial radio listeners WFH are listening to the radio during the daytime, at times of day they may have been unlikely to listen previously. New media behaviours have been formed, presenting a great opportunity to connect with this previously difficult-to-reach audience.

With the Prime Minister setting out a roadmap to cautiously ease the country out of lockdown, will WFH continue to be commonplace? The research strongly suggests so. Three-fifths of the group (61%) will seek to WFH multiple times a week post-pandemic. New working habits have been formed and they appear to be here to stay.  

To find out more about the working from home audience, please visit the Radiocentre website here.