Working From Home

by Barbara Buffton

The barriers to home-working

As with anything new, home-working needs many things in place for it to work properly. Below are some things to consider before going down this road.

The person

Home-working is inappropriate for some people. For example, if you have difficulty motivating yourself or you are not a self-starter, then maybe you need the external discipline provided by set hours and a managed environment.

It’s also likely that young people entering work for the first time may benefit greatly from working in a conventional work environment in their early working years.

For some people going to work is an important part of their lives and the place of work is where they make friends and develop their social skills and contacts. They would miss out on the office jokes and camaraderie.

See What kind of person best suits home-working? for more thoughts on this.

The work

Not all tasks are best performed at home. There are many tasks that need close supervision or the benefits and synergy of a team working together in one location.

The place

Many homes are not well equipped for some kinds of home-working. For example, even the most highly motivated individual could have problems focusing on and completing a series of tasks in a small flat with children playing nearby and noisy neighbours next door. Space might also be at a premium, making it difficult to separate out work from home and vice versa.

The employer

Some companies have management systems and cultures that are not (yet) adapted to home-working. Some managers will undoubtedly lack confidence in their ability to manage remotely and others will lack faith in their staff’s commitment and ability to perform without supervision. If there is no trust between the manager and the home worker, home-working is doomed to fail.

Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.

Booker T Washington

Systems

If employer and employee don’t sit down together at the beginning to work out systems and procedures in order to manage home-working properly, there is potential for all kinds of problems. For example, a lack of monitoring or reporting procedures, set up in advance, can result in poor communication between the employee and the line manager; IT equipment that breaks down, with no backup systems in place, can mean low or no productivity. See What needs to be in place.

Other people

Colleagues may resent home workers, thinking that they have it easy. Family members might either feel that home-working is an intrusion into home life or welcome the fact that the home worker is around more to help with domestic issues.

Action point

Consider the factors that might stop you or your organisation adopting home-working. What could you do to minimise or eliminate these factors?