Working From Home

by Barbara Buffton

The benefits of home-working

If managed properly, home-working can bring many tangible and intangible benefits to both employer and employee.

Benefits to the employer

Increased productivity

Home workers say that working in a more relaxed environment helps them work better and longer, thus potentially increasing their productivity. Another major factor in this, of course, is that home workers avoid the daily commute and unwelcome interruptions of an office environment.

Reduced costs

Companies adopting home-working policies and practices can achieve significant reductions in costs. There are two main areas of savings that can usually be found.

  • Cost of premises. There might no longer be a need to accommodate all staff in one office space.
  • Office overheads. Although you will still need to equip the home worker’s home workstation, it might work out more cheaply than having someone working in the office.

Recruitment costs

In some circumstances the costs associated with high staff turnover (attrition) rates can be reduced, as staff may be happier and stay with the company. A company might also save costs on the relocation of staff.

Improved motivation

Home-working can improve the motivation of staff because they enjoy the independence and the trust invested in them.

Skills retention

Employees who might otherwise leave, for example because their family has to move for another family member’s job, have the option to work from home and remain with the company.

Employees who take a career break, for whatever reason, could continue working part-time from home and stay informed of what’s going on in their organisation.

Employees who take maternity or paternity leave can continue to undertake some tasks at home if necessary and may then require less retraining when they return to full-time work.

Organisation flexibility

When companies relocate or reorganise, people can continue to work from home without disruption.

Organisations can create teams of home workers, pulling together the best skills and experience for a particular project, regardless of geography and time zones.

In times of crisis or high workload, home-working can enable staff to catch up, without using precious time to travel into the office.

And, of course, organisations with home workers are more able to cope with external disruption such as transport strikes, severe weather, natural disasters or terrorist action.

Benefits to the employee

Pros and cons

‘I was sitting at my desk writing emails the other morning when there was a knock on the front door. A friend had popped round for a chat. I invited her in and we spent a pleasant half-hour or so drinking coffee and catching up on news.

When she left, I went back to my desk and continued where I left off.

It’s at times like these that I love working from home for the flexibility it gives me to respond to friends and other ‘distractions’ as and when they occur. But such moments are also a threat to my productivity! It takes discipline not to fritter away a whole day on non-work issues and to regain focus once it’s been interrupted.’

Greater job satisfaction

More autonomy, relative flexibility of working hours, fewer interruptions and no daily commute are just a few of the things that contribute to home workers having greater job satisfaction.

Reduced travel time and costs

This is the most obvious benefit and, for many home workers, a primary motivation.

Less disruption

If another family member has to relocate for a job, you might be able to stay in your job, thus minimising disruption to the family.

Better balance of work and family life

Even though you may put in more hours of effective work, it is likely that you will still be able to see more of your family and take on more of your share of home responsibilities, such as ferrying the children around, shopping, being at home for gas/electricity/water meters to be read, parcels to be delivered, and so on. For more ideas on how to keep the balance right, see Work-life Balance.

Warning

Home-working is no substitute for childcare provision!

Participation in the local community

Some home workers enjoy being able to participate more in community activities such as being a school governor or involved in local clubs and societies, at a time when commuters are still on the way back from the office. Their work is obviously still done, but at other times.

Flexible hours

It is well known that each of us has times of the day when we feel more like working than at other times – you might be at your best in the early morning, in the afternoon or late at night. Typical commuting patterns and office hours mean that everyone in an office has to work to roughly the same timetable.

Although in some circumstances such as customer services, home workers must be available at specific hours, most can adopt a more flexible approach. You can work at times that suit you best, being free to stop and start tasks, working them around other activities, as long as work commitments are fulfilled.

Access to work for people with specific difficulties

Working from home can also enable you to work if you have specific problems. You might have a disability that makes it difficult for you to travel to work or to work normal office hours, you might be a single parent who needs to be home at certain times for the children or maybe you’re a carer with responsibility for an elderly or sick relative.

Benefits to the local economy and environment

Reduced traffic congestion

Have you noticed how much more easily the traffic flows (and how many fewer cars there are) in the holiday periods?

Reduced total travel and consequent pollution

Working from home has to reduce the impact of car travel on the environment.

Good news!

Home-working means that every day could be a dress-down day!