Homeworking - The Good & Not so Good

There are an estimated 4.2 million employees carrying out some form of homeworking with much emphasis being placed on the advantages but there can be significant downsides too. 

Home-working is defined as work carried out by employees working from or at home. It can be permanent or temporary, full-time or part-time, carried out on an ongoing, periodic basis or even on a one-off occasion and although it may be an informal arrangement some ground rules should always be established and relevant legislation adhered to. In this blog I am addressing only some of the issues affecting the decision to allow/opt for homeworking but for additional information/advice recommend the ACAS publication “Homeworking -  A Guide for Employers and Employees”. 

Technology in the form of laptops and wireless connections, available to most of us, means that it is now easier than ever to work from home or indeed anywhere away from an office base. Fast and reliable broadband connections mean that access to email and the Internet is now (usually) quick and reliable but despite this homeworking is not something that all businesses can accommodate.

The Good?
In recent years a great deal has been said about the benefits of homeworking from both employer and employee perspective; how it can motivate employees who often see it as a benefit. In addition, employees can save money on commuting and in many cases reallocate this extra time. Also, because of the potential for a better work-life balance, if managed properly homeworking can make employees more productive.
Other potential benefits of home-working
•    Reduced company costs
•    Improved motivation
•    Retention of skills base
•    Organisation flexibility
•    More job satisfaction
•    Reduced travel time
•    Better work-life balance
•    Flexible hours
•    Less traffic and less pollution

The Not so…………?
It cannot be denied that there are some major downsides which are often overlooked. In September 2016 the London School of Economics announced the results of the findings on homeworking arrangements made by one of its PhD students. She found that, where homeworking is made a full-time arrangement, as opposed to part time or ad hoc, the benefits for both the employee and the employer generally disappear over time.

One of the main reasons is that homeworking is no longer perceived as a discretionary benefit or a privilege when it becomes long term and some employees start to resent homeworking due to their increased utility bills, such as for gas and electricity in the winter, and other associated costs, even though they may no longer have travel expenses.

Homeworking benefits can also be perceived to disappear simply because there is no clear boundary between home and work as although working at home can be convenient, it can easily be disrupted by friends and neighbours popping in or unexpected childcare duties because the employee is already at home. Home-based employees can also find it difficult to switch off from work, especially where they don’t have a dedicated workspace or work area. In the early stages it will be new and exciting but as time goes on the employee may feel a growing sense of isolation as all of us need social interaction.

Employers and employees need to consider the potential drawbacks in advance
•    Is the person, the work and the place suited to home-working?
•    Is there enough trust between line manager and home worker?
•    Is there the will to adopt new working practices and thrash out how they will operate?
•    Does home-working suit the company ethos and will it be accepted by colleagues?
What kind of person is best suited to home-working?
Here are some personality traits and skills that a home worker should ideally have rather than simply a wish/need for homeworking to accommodate practical issues or a third party
•    Self-motivation. Without the structure of getting up and going into the office, you have to create your own motivation to get up and ‘go to work’.
•    Working without supervision. Your line manager isn’t going to be as available as in an office environment. You’re going to have to self-manage a lot more.
•    Good organisation and time management skills as when you are working from home you are closer to other distractions and calls on your time.
•    Being proactive. As you are remote from the office and your line manager, you need to be proactive in terms of contacting people and following up actions. 
•    Commitment to work. You need to have the dedication to meet targets and deadlines, despite difficulties, distractions and interruptions.
•    Separating work and home life. It is as important to be able to stop work and give quality time to yourself and others as it is to get started in the first place when other things or people are demanding your attention.
•    Commitment to data security and confidentiality as both are even more important when you work away from the office, particularly if others are free to enter your workspace at home.
•    Self-discipline. Some people have the self-discipline to ignore distractions and stay focused; some can go with the distractions as they occur and then make up work time later; others will let the distractions take over and never finish the work. 
•    Taking advantage of the flexible lifestyle. If you can take advantage of a more flexible lifestyle and still get the work done, you could benefit from a sense of more fulfilment and feel less stressed