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Feature: Homeworking – Is It For You?


By Sandra Beale of SJ Beale HR Consult

Over the last few years there has been a huge growth in the numbers of homeworkers; the ability to work remotely has been achieved by widespread access to the internet and email together with faster internet connectivity (broadband), mobile phones and wireless technology all enabling workers to ditch the confines of the traditional office.

Improved work/life balance is the obvious advantage for home or remote workers. Abandoning the office commute can literally save hours out of the day.

As long as targets are met and output levels are maintained, the hours we work need not be fixed if our manager agrees. Flexible working can really therefore be the key to managing a healthy balance between work and our personal lives.

The perception is that as long as the work area complies with health and safety regulations then homeworking is the easy option.

The reality, however, is that it doesn’t suit everyone. Working from home can be very isolating and more often then not there are few friends and family available to call upon during the working week to bring social interaction and support.

Some workers may even find their well-being is at risk. For those individuals prone to depression working from home can become a nightmare with the distinction between work and home turning into a blur.

Employee/manager relations can also become damaged if care is not taken to adapt the relationship to remote working conditions.

The saying ‘out of sight out of mind’ can apply if relationships do sour. Perceptions can play tricks; it might feel from time to time as though you are being ignored by your manager with only the odd phone call to check that performance targets have been reached and to find out when the monthly figures will be sent in.

In such circumstances workers can feel demotivated and under-valued. Performance levels can be the result of poor communication.

Working from home is ideal for self-starters who can discipline themselves to work set hours so that there is a clear distinction between work and home. Line managers of such individuals have to have the experience and skill to be able to manage at a distance and understand the issues that arise.

First and foremost, the type of work needs to be adaptable to home-working such as administration, freelance work and sales.

The line manager needs to be able to encourage team interaction by organising team meetings at a single location on a regular basis to provide valuable information on what is happening within the business, any job vacancies and training and promotional opportunities.

Occasional video conferences can also help communications where physical group meetings are not possible. Such get-togethers should be supplemented by weekly phone calls and emails to keep dialogue going.

Line managers need to be able to communicate clear goals, expected standards and be equipped with the tools for measurement and assessment of work quality to ensure that everything is satisfactory.

Security of information and data protection should be a high priority. A decision should be taken whether to give remote workers full or controlled access to network links using an IT security risk assessment.

Company laptops equipped with encryption software may reduce the possibility of disaster with important corporate documents getting mixed up with the children’s homework or theft from the boot of a car.

The installation of virus protection, authorised use of additional software and prohibition of USB sticks and floppy discs to transport data can be essential.

Information on using secure servers and taking daily back ups should be incorporated into an IT security policy both for remote (and office) workers giving details on not sharing passwords, opening suspicious email attachments and visiting work-related websites only.

Clear instructions for not modifying any company spreadsheets and macros without authorisation can help to provide guidelines on what is acceptable.

A pilot scheme is a good way to measure which workers and job roles are suitable for homeworking and what impact it has on the organisation. Homeworking can offer real business benefits, including happier and healthier employees, improved staff retention, lower absence and cost cuts.

Homeworking, however, as illustrated is not for everyone and it is important that organisations and freelancers who decide to go down this route are supported where possible, given effective communication channels and monitored regularly.


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