Andrew Bibby



Andrew Bibby is a professional writer and journalist, working as an independent consultant for a number of international and national organisations, and as a regular contributor to British national newspapers and magazines. He is also the author of a number of books.

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Working at home

This article by Andrew Bibby was first written, in a slightly different form, for a commercial client in 2001

What would happen if you marched up to your boss and said "I think I’ll work at home next week"?

A lecture on your level of commitment to the company? A brusque message to pick up your P45? Or a pat on the back for being in touch with the latest business ideas?

That’s right: working from home is the idea of the moment in an increasing number of British companies. Not that anyone talks about home-working any more: the word is teleworking, and the point is to take advantage of the fact that, thanks to computers and the internet, you can stay in touch with your work, and your work colleagues, even if you’re physically miles away (and dressed in your oldest and tattiest t-shirt).

More and more of us are becoming teleworkers. The government has been keeping official figures for the past three years, and these say that about 1.6 million people are now teleworking. Not everyone spends all their time at home, of course: about half a million people are what are called ‘occasional’ teleworkers, working at least a day a week in or from home and the rest of the time back in the office or workplace. But interestingly, each time the statistics are collected the numbers go up: the overall number of teleworkers has increased by a massive 40% in just two years.

The government likes the idea of teleworking: in a recent booklet ‘Working Anywhere’, it said that more flexible ways of working could bring benefits to both businesses and to individuals. The argument to put forward to your boss is that you’ll be much more productive when you’re away from the distractions of the office: fewer interruptions mean that you can really focus on the work in hand. There have been plenty of case studies which have looked at teleworking experiments and found that productivity has indeed risen. This is one reason why big corporates such as BT now make teleworking one of the working options available to large numbers of their employees.

And what’s in it for you? The chance to avoid the expense and wear-and-tear of the daily to commute to work is one obvious benefit. What’s more, whilst nobody would suggest that you try to combine work with childcare, you should be able to manage more easily the difficult juggling act between your work commitments and your home and family life.

Not every job can be performed at home, of course, though if a lot of your time is spent facing a computer screen or sorting out data or information then the chances are that you could telework for at least some of your time. In fact, occasional teleworking may be a better choice than full-time work from home: experts point out that if you’re entirely based at home, you may begin to lose touch with your colleagues and find yourself missing the social interaction of the workplace. It’s true, too, that out of sight can be out of mind when it comes to career opportunities or promotion.

Thinking of taking the plunge? Here’s five things to do.

  • Talk over your plans with other members of your family. Make it clear that, if you do work from home, you’ll have to be left undisturbed.
  • Think about where you’ll work. Try to use a room where you can work in peace, and where you can shut the door firmly at the end of the day when ‘work’ is over.
  • Get adequate equipment. Don’t try to struggle by with a computer placed sideways on the dining table, or a rickety kitchen chair. Ask your employer to ensure that your have equipment and furniture which is ergonomically designed.
  • If you’re working from home for more than the occasional day, ask your employer to pay for a separate business phone line to be connected. Put an answering machine on your home line whilst you’re working.
  • Keep in touch with your colleagues. Make a point of taking part in team meetings and social events.

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