The Truth about Working from Home
This is no ordinary article pontificating about the benefits of working from home; no doubt there is a call for it, as according to a survey by Sulzer Infra CBX, over 50 percent of the working population will spend some of the week working from home by 2010. Today we will focus briefly on the truth about working from home.
No, this is going one step further to analyse the way we work and how we have traded our well-boded apartments for the cheap polyester surrounds of our surrogate home…the office. Or, in actual fact, is it the other way round?
Plato said the happy life is depicted as a mixed life associating measured bodily and intellectual pleasures and calling pleasure “the path toward one’s own being” (Philebus).
By that, he means that, as embodied beings in the making in this earthly world of becoming, it is only through our feelings that we can get moving. We only move toward what’s pleasurable to us and away from what’s painful to us.
In a nutshell, when we are happy, that is when we are at our best. Whether in love, play or work. With this in mind, we can see the benefits of working from home surrounded by familiar pleasures that help us to achieve better work.
The opportunities for working from a location that suits your own lifestyle have never been greater as digital transmission through ISDN and faster modems have speeded up the process of transferring information. No longer are we forced to commute into the office, as the dream of working from home becomes a reality.
As well as saving time and money, homeworking also gives the individual greater freedom over their working practices and time management. For those with children, home working gives mothers the opportunity to integrate their home and working lives with minimal conflict.
But is this really telling the whole truth? The internet has a lot to answer for. Wireless networking means we should be able to work from home. But do we really believe that the new homeworking revolution has taken off as many thought it would?
Many people still feel their bosses don’t feel comfortable with the idea that an employee is ‘not in the office’ to perform his or her daily duties.
Even the employees themselves have found that the promised Nirvana of working in the familiar surroundings of Shangri-La, with the interruptions of family life, is not all that it is cracked up to be.
A recent MORI poll says we are spending more and more time at work. This has always been the mantra for people who want to get on but it is also starting to become a fact of life for the ordinary Joe.
Companies reducing costs has led to fewer people doing more work. No matter how you redefine your job role, companies are seeking to be more efficient and maximise their employees’ output. People now need to achieve higher standards of output just to compete for a job.
Real Life Profiles….answered
The home-working revolution has spluttered and choked on its slow journey forward, jerking from side to side in its efforts to stagger down a straight line. But if the predictions are right, we are due to see a major move towards a more flexible routine with more people working, at least part of the time, from home.
But at the same time, is the office space in the new living room? And the staff canteen the new fridge/freezer? Are we actually making our home in the office? What is actually going on?
Job: Jane McKee
Role: Marketing Executive
Jane is your typical up and coming professional. She wants to get on and make a difference in her job. Her working hours range outside of the core hours of 9 to 5. She usually starts her day at 8.00 am and doesn’t leave until after 6.00 pm.
Even weekends, which should be taken up with her new family, are interrupted by frequent visits to the office.
She spends so much time there now, she has taken to holding domestic arrangements there, such as lunchtime visits to see her parents, scheduling domestic duties around her work-based day and doing her shopping on the internet from work.
“I actually quite enjoy my working life but I do sometimes feel guilty that I am not giving as much quality time to my home life. Sometimes I think I should bring everything here to work as it would be much more convenient.
I hardly use the kitchen at home and I keep most of my food here in the office fridge because invariably, most of my eating is done here in work”.
Name: Nick Harris
Job: Web Designer
Nick, who works in the new media industry, sees working at home as a positive perk provided by his company. Though not a full-time arrangement, he is allowed to take the occasional day out of the office to work from home for convenience.
He claims this makes him constantly available and encourages him to work out of hours, thereby increasing his productivity. Homeworking suits Nick’s non-conventional lifestyle and sees the future of work as being in constant connection to a network.
He believes that home working should be extended to what he calls ‘life working’, which means he can take off as many days during the year as he wants and be able to work whilst on holiday in the Bahamas.
“If I need to take a day off sick, then I can always work from home. This means my company benefits as I am being productive and it allows me to work within comfortable surroundings that make it easy for me to function when I am not well”.
Nick’s idea of network working may be quite a way away from the minds of corporate Britain but he is an example of the growing trend of workers who see the workplace less of a priority when compared to the work itself.
Name: Louise Gent
Job: Project Manager
Louise is a bright and articulate thirty-something who has worked in creative industries most of her working life. Her current role makes demands on her ability to manage her own time and workflow, which are calculated (by herself) within the company’s own goals.
Though she comes into the office most days, Louise is given free rein as to when she wants to work from home. Homeworking removes her from office distractions which means she can get on with her work.
“The company I work for has a relaxed attitude towards home working and I find that it is sometimes necessary when I need to concentrate for long periods of time on important documents instead of being interrupted in a workplace environment. Because of this, I am more productive, which is also beneficial to the company.”
Name: Alison Fuller
Job: Customer Service Operator
Alison is a teleworker who works from home. She has recently come back into employment after three years bringing up her child with her partner. Her new employer supplied her with a PC and a new telephone line, which she has installed into her new ‘office’, which used to be the storeroom of her house.
The job has allowed Alison to re-enter the workforce arena, as she is able to work around her domestic duties.
“I wouldn’t want to go back to full time working again so this job has been a heaven send. I look after our child in the day until my husband comes back in the evening.
He then takes over whilst I slip into the office and work on the phones for the next five hours. It’s a perfect situation because my hours are flexible and it allows me to stay at home with my family. I also save on travel costs.”
Perceptions of Home Working
The arguments for and against working at home fall into two significant categories, depending on your outlook and opinions. In one camp, the historical imagery of homeworking is seen as exploitative, carried out by women and the disadvantaged, such as ethnic minorities, on low pay.
The second point of view draws on futuristic images of a permanently networked workforce being able to work wherever and whenever they choose via the net, mobile phone, and the PC. For these people, working at home is seen as an enriching and liberating experience.
Maybe we are looking at home working in the wrong way. It seems that home-based working suits particular kinds of people doing specific jobs. More and more people occasionally work remotely from home. To many, this is a good balance of convenience and comforts which offers flexibility that ultimately increases productivity.
One of the largest segments of home workers are those who work in Telework. These workers tend to be women with families who are unable to work to a restrictive 9 to 5 routine. The offer of a flexible home-based work pattern that can be arranged around the responsibilities of home life, appealed to a large section of the population.
Even if they were not offered home working, the opening up of the working time with companies extending their opening hours meant women who fell into this category could work around their busy home life.
Call centres were one of the first to open up to this new working time, especially by banks that offered 24-hour customer service. But for many companies, investing in a multi-million-pound call centre is a very expensive option.
The second option of recruiting IT literate staff who are willing to work from home proved to be the cheaper alternative for the company and a convenient choice for employees.
The company would provide the PC and pay for other requirements, such as internet access, and allow people to work from home. The AA, BT and the BBC are among those who have been successful in implementing this strategy.
Maybe the option for working from home has less to do with merits and advantages but with the driving force behind your need to work.
A careerist will want to know where he or his colleagues are and how they are doing in comparison with themselves. This is not easy to do when stuck in the comfort of your own four walls.
For someone aiming to just get on with life, the allure of working near your loved ones makes it appealing for a completely different reason. At the same time, a growing band of working people would like the option of combining working methods.
The office would be the focal point for work interaction but it would be useful to be allowed to work from home when the time and need arises. Just as flexitime took off in the eighties, maybe the future will see the expansion of ‘flexible-workplace’ working.
Working from home trends
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that the trend for teleworkers working from home is on an upward trend.
The Institute of Employment Studies analysis of the Spring 2000 Labour Force Survey figures shows the fastest expanding teleworking occupation is in management, with an increase of 25 percent in managers working from home.
The number of women who became teleworkers increased three-fold in 1999 over the previous year to 100,000 but the number of men who have joined the ranks has remained static.
This trend clearly shows the sort of people who will benefit from home working. The rest of us are eyeing up new furniture to a place near our ‘in’ and ‘out’ boxes in the office.
The psychological change in working practices over the past half a century has attributed to the current crossroads.
The options are poles apart, wherein one scenario we can work longer and spend most of our lives in our workplace, and the other involves turning our home into the workplace. The lines are fine and by no means visible.
Typical sectors that benefit from home working
This is probably one of the biggest sectors out there. Many household names who are now multinationals started with a romantic story of how they started in a dingy spare room or the back shed in their garden. The IT and consultancy sectors are two of the largest groups of workers to benefit from this work method.
This is the biggest group of home workers, who are usually given a PC and modem that links them to the internet and company network. Cost-effective for companies and convenient for parents, this is becoming popular as time goes on.
Flexible home working for managers is becoming popular. As most managers are involved in the ‘big picture’ decisions, home working allows them to take a step backward and look at projects objectively, instead of becoming embroiled in clouded power decisions in the office.
Sales, IT and Media
Typical roles include journalists, designers, telesales, and consultants. Mixing office and home-based working allows workers to be flexible in their approach to how, when and where they meet prospective customers face to face.
Freelance workers, such as journalists and consultants, often work from home. With the internet, journalists have a vast resource of information to tap into to help them in their work.
IT specialists who work on a freelance basis can also function many responsibilities remotely. This could include working on software that requires minimal visits to the office, technical and customer support.
Ultimately, offices or third party places of work will not get buried by home working. The idea is appealing but ultimately impractical. Customers will always want to be reassured that there are centrally based bricks and mortar mass that will deal with their needs.
Workers will always need some form of real-time interaction with colleagues, to know what’s going on and to respond to normal thought processes.
Communication is at the top of the list of skills required by employers and nothing can beat that one to one interaction. But at the same time why can we not do some of the other tasks from the comfort of our own home?
Ideally, it would seem that it is both practical and productive to allow employees the flexibility to work from both the pleasant and familiar surroundings of the home, and the office.
As Plato says, wealth, health, art, and innocent pleasures are means of attaining happiness. And you know what they say about a happy beaver.
-Thanks a lot for reading our article – The Truth About Working from Home. Hopefully, you read and enjoy it. Have a great day!