Working From Home

by Barbara Buffton

In a nutshell

1. What is home-working?

Home-working is office-type work carried out at or from home by employees, usually as part of a company’s flexible working practice policy.

  • The UK Government is promoting home-working as a family-friendly working practice.
  • Cheaper computer equipment and telecommunications make home-working more feasible.
  • In the light of rising property prices and longer journeys to work, more people are looking for the better work-life balance that home-working can give.


2. The benefits of home-working

If properly managed, home-working can offer significant benefits to employers, employees, the local economy and the environment.

  • Increased productivity
  • 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


3. The barriers to home-working

Employers and employees need to consider the potential drawbacks in advance.

  • Are 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?


4. What kind of person best suits home-working?

Home-working suits certain types of people, who have the following skills or abilities:

  • Self-motivation and self-discipline
  • Working alone and without supervision
  • Organising tasks and managing time
  • Proactive and committed to work
  • Separating work from home life
  • Being committed to data security
  • Enjoying a flexible lifestyle


5. How the employee can make it work

Make sure you have thought about the following factors:

  • Is your home workspace suitable and safe?
  • Where and how will you organise your workspace?
  • What lighting, furniture and equipment do you need?
  • What systems need to be in place to communicate with the office and ensure data security?
  • How will you make sure you get the same training opportunities?
  • What are the procedures if your equipment goes wrong?
  • How will you maintain contact with the rest of your team?
  • Can you improve your time management skills?
  • What strategies will you use to separate work and family life?


6. Time management for home workers

Efficient time management is crucial to getting the work done well and on time, and keeping a healthy work-life balance.

  • Structure your day to suit your most productive hours and include breaks to keep yourself fresh.
  • Organise your workspace so that you don’t waste time looking for things.
  • Stay focused on the task and don’t get distracted by emails or the phone.
  • Take the time to plan particular projects and your working day, using a diary, To Do lists and a time log.


7. Managing a home worker

Once you have decided that the work and the employee are suited to home-working, you need to consider the following issues:

  • Do you trust the employee to work well without frequently checking up?
  • Do you need training in remote team management?
  • How often do you need updating by the home worker?
  • Are there any measures you need to take for the rest of the team to accept the arrangement?
  • What objectives and targets do you need to establish?
  • How will you monitor and review progress?


8. What needs to be in place

The Employment Act 2002 gives certain employees the right to request flexible working practices, including home-working, and companies must be prepared to offer the same options to other staff to avoid discrimination. It makes sense to have a written company home-working policy, which should include the following topics:

  • Company requirements on, for example, data protection, health and safety and the percentage of the time the employee works at home
  • What the company will provide in terms of equipment and systems
  • The principles for deciding who can be a home-worker
  • Procedures for agreeing on setting targets, monitoring and reviewing progress and dealing with problems
  • Insurance and tax implications.