From the TUC

Homeworking has been on the rise despite the economic crisis

17 May 2013, by in Working Life

The number of people who work from home has continued to rise in recent years, increasing by 470,000 since 2007. In some ways this is rather surprising, since in a time of economic crisis we might have expected most employers simply to fear change  and stick to traditional ways of working.

However, there are some strong pressures for change in this area, including the rise of information-based industrial sectors and a growing expectation amongst both younger people and the most senior employees that time and place of work matter less than getting the job done.

Better technology  is a necessary condition for enabling new ways of working, but change is not driven by technology alone. Also crucial  is the formal and informal culture of the enterprise and the  interplay between what senior managers, other managers and workers want. In some cases, a serious gap may open up between formal company policy and what middle managers actually do, as they may feel threatened by the new issues that will need managing.

It is therefore important to get the structure and the culture right so that home-workers are fully integrated into the working life of the enterprise. For those who mainly work from home, this is likely to include ensuring that there are regular opportunities to communicate with colleagues, including some face-to-face meetings, making sure that home-workers are always in the loop, that their health and safety is protected and ensuring that they are not passed over for promotion.

Unions have traditionally been quite sceptical about homeworking, but this has been changing as the nature of such work has changed. As a result,  many unions now have branches and on-line resources for homeworkers and freelancers.

nowadays the employees who are most likely to work from home are high-status managers and professionals, and it is also perhaps suggestive that these days  65 per cent of homeworkers are men. Unions try to help workers get what they want, and the government’s Work-Life Balance survey suggests that a further 4.5 million people would like to work form home at least some of the time.

National Work From Home Day is the right time for employees to think about whether they want to work from home if technically possible. For employers, its a good time to think about whether the business might benefit from allowing homeworking. Some companies have reported that their homeworkers are more productive and stay with them longer than employees who come in to the work-place in the traditional way.

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