Homeworking – a good thing?

Commuters by a trainPeople go to work for many reasons, in addition to the requirement to receive an income. Those reasons will vary from individual to individual, but may include having a purpose, feeling valuable and valued, using their skills, the social contact with colleagues, having a challenge, having a structure to their lives and many more. And people have other factors outside of work to accommodate. They may be parents or carers. They may wish to work part time. They may be studying or have a demanding hobby or have other demands on their time. They may be disabled. They may hate commuting in the rush hour!

In order to meet some of these needs, many organisations offer flexible working. This can include flexible start and finish times (e.g. to avoid the rush hour), flexi-time, part-time working, job-share, term-time working, annualised hours, nine-day fortnights, job carving and the opportunity to carry out some or all tasks from home.

I’m particularly interested in exploring the idea of home-working for those jobs, or parts of jobs, that could be carried out remotely. The benefits for the employer include saving money on office space, greater retention of staff, wider pool of candidates to choose from, increased productivity (research suggests that employees are, on average, more productive at home) and savings on travel expenses. Benefits for employees include less time and money spent commuting, greater flexibility in juggling other reponsibilities, working in an accessible environment and a better work/life balance. Society gains the ecological benefits of far fewer people travelling by car/train.

However, there may be drawbacks. Managers may not feel comfortable with remotely managing people’s performance, employees may miss the cameraderie of working in a team.

I’d be interested to hear how employers have overcome some of these obstacles. Do you know of any examples of good practice?

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6 thoughts on “Homeworking – a good thing?

  1. I have done some homeworking in the past but am unemployed at moment so 100% at home.
    My big issue is I have no dedicated space – I’m on the sofa at the moment which is not ideal !! I have house to myself during school time in term time so no problem if I utilise that. I then have discipline of getting up at same time as children. However you do need regular contact, business and social, with rest of team – best face to face but failing that phone/email/instant messaging is viable.

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  2. Hello Andrew, thanks for your comment – yes, that’s another issue isn’t it? Having the dedicated space at home for a separate work area. Nothing worse than having to clear all your work away every time you need the kitchen table for a meal!

    And that personal contact with people is essential, even if only over the internet or telephone.

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  3. Interesting that you both mention contact with other people – so important when you work from home, as I do.

    A very enterprising friend of mine (and a fellow cancer survivor, but that’s another story!) has set up a group called Working Lunch, purely for people in our geographical area who work from home and don’t get much F2F contact with others.

    We meet once a month for a drink and a sandwich at a local pub and our sessions are very popular,with more members coming on board each month. And because we’re getting to know each other quite well now there’s none of this “stuff-a-business-card-in-your-face-and-move-on” networking; we genuinely share and learn from each other in a very constructive way.

    It’s a very simple, low-cost idea and would be very easy for anyone else to set up. Works a treat.

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    1. What a great idea – a combination of company, companionship and people to bounce ideas around with. As more and more people work from home this might become more popular.

      Puts a whole new spin on “ladies who lunch”!

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  4. I now enjoy home working after years of trying to juggle working outside the home with my role as a carer.

    It gives me flexibility to be available for son without the need to ask “permission” for time off for hospital appointments etc.

    I tried home working years ago but found at that time I needed the company and buzz of being in the workplace. Ten years later I managed to make the jump with only a few reservations – mainly to do with the lack of social contact and others to bounce off ideas.

    I do like your idea Suzan of a Working lunch – a great way to avoid the isolation of working on your own. As it can get quite lonely sat at home with only the computer and the dog for company!

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Julia. There are definitely pros and cons to both working in an office and working from home – the trick is to find the best of both worlds!

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