Working from home is on the increase in the UK. According to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), 59% of employers who responded to its survey in 2011 offered homeworking (or teleworking as it’s sometimes called). This was up from 13% in 2006.
According to a report by the TUC* (Trade Union Congress) in May 2013, just over four million workers usually worked from home in 2012, a rise of 13% in the last five years. In addition, this report found that many millions more occasionally work from home.
According to a BBC News report**, British Telecom is one of the pioneers of homeworking. The company began a telework scheme in 1986, and now has 15,000 homeworkers out of 92,000 employees. BT reports that homeworkers save the company an average of £6,000 a year each, are 20% more productive and take fewer sick days.
However, the picture is not completely rosy. Some people think that the backlash against home working has begun - with Yahoo banning homeworking among its employees in February 2013.
Pros of home-working
Working from home can have many advantages. It can offer flexibility and a better work/life balance, not least because it frees up time and money which would otherwise be spent on travelling to work.
Not having to travel to work can also reduce stress, as can having the peace and quiet of home to concentrate on your work. Without the distractions of a busy and potentially noisy workplace, home workers can often be much more productive.
Clearly homeworking isn’t suitable for some jobs – manufacturing or retailing, for example – but for most jobs, some working from home can have its advantages.
Cons of home-working
One of the main drawbacks of home working is that you may feel isolated and miss face-to-face interaction with colleagues. However, the risk of loneliness can be reduced by keeping in close touch with your manager and colleagues via phone or Skype.
You may also have to sacrifice living space in order to accommodate a home work station and you may feel that your work encroaches on your home life. One way to mitigate the risk of this happening is to set clear boundaries over where and when you will work.
Data security may be an issue - you will have to make sure any visitors to your house don’t see any sensitive material that you're working with.
You will also need to consider what happens if your computer or internet connection fails while you are working from home - in the office, someone will come and fix it, not so at home.
You may find that, despite research pointing to higher output from home-working, there's still a perception from some people that it amounts to skiving. There may be some truth in the saying “out of sight, out of mind” where you run the risk of being overlooked for promotion or other opportunities to advance your career merely because you aren’t as visible as those in the office.
Finally, please be aware that some adverts for homeworking opportunities are scams. If you are interested in an advertised homeworking job make sure that you do some research into the company and contact them with your questions. If they are legitimate, they should have no problem with speaking to you and giving you more information.
Is working from home right for you?
First of all, decide if your job is one that can be done from home.
Be honest – do you have the self-discipline to work from home?
Talk to colleagues who already work from home to find out what it’s really like
Making the case for working from home
Consider how working from home would impact your colleagues
Try to cite examples when you have worked from home in the past and this allowed you to be more productive
Try to anticipate any objections your manager may have and overcome them before they are raised
Make plans on how to keep in regular contact and how you are going to remain ‘visible’ so that you aren’t overlooked for promotion
Offer to work from home for a trial period to see if the arrangement can work for you and your manager
Making a statutory application for flexible working: