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Ever considered working from home? We give you a guide to all the pros and cons.
Homeworking seems like the perfect solution for parents who want to work/need to earn but want to fit their work round their children. It is an option that is becoming increasingly popular as more and more families need a dual income to get by. But it doesn’t suit all types of work.
It is, however, ideal for things like planning, report writing, preparing for meetings, research and data entry and, for employers, if it works well it can bring huge benefits, such as increased motivation and reduced sickness leave.
Very few homeworking jobs are advertised. The best way is to look out for websites like Workingmums.co.uk which specifically work with employers who offer flexible working options. Even if there are no jobs for your skills in a specific week, you can gauge from the site who the family-friendly employers are and gain advice about asking about flexibility during interviews.
It is best to be straightforward about flexibility if this is crucial to you taking a job. You can introduce it in a general way at interview by asking what the company’s policy is on flexible working. Katie Slater, founding director of career management company A Brave New World Ltd, says this kind of approach emphasises flexible working as something positive rather than being a problem area.
For some companies, flexibility might just mean part-time office-based work – and for some jobs homeworking may not be feasible – but for many nowadays homeworking is possible, given IT advances. There are definite issues for both you and your employer to consider about homeworking in order to ensure it is right for you and will work.
Homeworking is difficult with children around, even if they sleep for long stretches. Think of the practicalities. This is what one employer told workingmums: “Before applying for any role, candidates need to think carefully about how it will affect them and their family in practice. If they do not want their children to be looked after by someone else, realistically they cannot take on employment – this includes home-working. You can’t work effectively with a baby at home in almost any job, however much they sleep! Candidates may think they can rely on friends and family to help, but if so, they need to structure these arrangements clearly.”
Some people find they need the stimulus of other people around them and feel isolated and demotivated on their own. There are many things employers – and employees – can do to ease the isolation of home workers. This includes regular face to face meetings in the office, regular catch-up phone calls and emails, remembering to invite homeworkers to social events, etc.
Most office-based jobs can be done from remote these days. It is not too difficult setting people up with a remote email access to their office inbox. Phones can even be switched through from office to home. There should be full IT back-up for homeworkers.
Employers should do a full health and safety assessment on your home work station before you start work.
If, however, you are setting up as a freelance working from home, you will have to think carefully about issues like IT support and get online support about health and safety issues. The Health and Safety Executive offers guidance on its website. As far as IT support is concerned, you may be covered by the deal you have on your computer for computer-related problems. There are also a host of internet-based sites which help with IT support such as homeworking.com.
Of course, if your computer crashes, this is no use to you. It is worth considering having some sort of back-up – a laptop, for instance. Also remember to back up your files regularly. Business link also offer mentors and buddies for homeworkers by matching you up with someone in a similar line of work to your own.