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The jury seems to be out on whether homeworkers are more productive or less stressed, according to a recent report, but it suggests a positive impact on wellbeing.
Does homeworking make you more productive or less stressed? The jury seems to be out on this, according to a new report from Nuffield Health. The report, however, does find that homeworking can boost wellbeing and be a game changer for people with disabilities.
Overall, it is a cautiously positive view, but one which calls for employers to think more about how they treat homeworkers and who responds best to it [the self motivated and self disciplined] as well as counselling that a one size fits all approach doesn’t work because everyone is different.
It can be hard to make general statements about different types of working. What suits or stresses one person may not suit or stress another for all number of reasons, based on personality, habit, motivation, need and so forth.
I’ve been homeworking mainly for the best part of a decade. It can be a hard slog – resilience is definitely needed. It is lonely. For me, no amount of instant messenger messages makes up for chatting with people face to face. That can be a stress in itself, but so too can the commute to work.
The need to avoid that stress can be a big motivating factor. When you are facing a strict deadline for picking up your child, every slight hold-up or signal failure ratchets up the stress levels. That is not something I miss and I still have the joy of experiencing it every so often. Just not the everyday uncertainty.
I’m not sure about the productivity thing. The jury may be out generally, but I feel that I have never been as productive as I am now. I do more than one job and each job is potentially an all-the-time role. Moreover, I am not held back by hours spent in meetings as I might be in an office.
I do, however, miss a good meeting every now and then, but I think this may be rose-tinted nostalgia. I now see meetings a bit like down time, if it weren’t for the stress caused by getting to them. I can see why a report last week said many meetings don’t lead to any decision-making, but could be considered a form of therapy. Chatting to people and finding out how they are is often a pleasant thing to do. It only gets toxic when you do it too much and it gets bogged down in internal politics. Working from home office politics are, for the most part, kept at bay, but that can mean it takes a while to find out that anyone in the team is having a hard time and needs support.
Also text-based communications and conference calls can lead to misunderstandings. It’s often not enough to put an exclamation mark – or three – at the end of the sentence to convey that your message was meant to be upbeat, not a sarcastic take-you-down.
I also like the fact that the report talks about the need for managers to be trained in working with homeworkers and that it takes time and effort to do so effectively. Too often homeworkers are left to their own devices to make things work and err on the side of overwork, particularly if they really need to work from home. Too often there is no-one to see that you are overloaded, disengaged or struggling and a problem not acknowledged can easily escalate.
I wonder too how working from home has affected my personality. Have I, for instance, become less sociable? I think I cut to the quick more than I ever used to. That might not be due to homeworking though. Having four kids and living on minus time means relaxing is hard and finding shortcuts becomes a reflex action. It would be nice to just take some time every now and again.
I agree with the report that the best of both worlds can be a good thing. However, that relies on other infrastructure being available. There is a rumour going around that our school is getting an after school facility in the new year. I’m not raising my hopes yet until I see it in black and white, but when they introduced a pay as you go breakfast club it transformed my life. I don’t use it that often – only son hates it, of course – but just knowing it is there is major. One day they will solve the whole getting to the station nightmare [few buses, no parking spaces within a 30-minute radius], adding considerably to commute time, and going to the office outside core midday hours when you can park near the station will be less of an ordeal and more of an occasional pleasure.
ps if only my home desk looked like the image above…