My Blog

By Helen Jamieson

Home working – possibilities and perils

31 January

home working

After years of running an HR consultancy that supports over 300 organisations across the UK I have come across hundreds of people who either request to work permanently from home or who leave their employer in order to set up their own business working from home.

When you set out your plan and talk it through with your family, home working so often feels like the best possible solution for your current circumstances. It appeals to those who have young children at home, those with elderly relatives they are caring for and those with long commutes or office environments they don’t particularly like. It also suits some with challenges such as autism and attention deficit disorder which can make life in an open plan and noisy environment very tough indeed.

Someone once asked me to help her write a letter to persuade her company to make her redundant, on the grounds that her role had gradually been diminished across the four years she had been a home worker. It was clear that she felt her manager had managed her badly and neglected her leaving her no choice but to go. She had been a highly qualified chemist operating at a senior level before requesting home working.

I helped her write the letter, but I did have serious misgivings. This was someone who freely admitted that she had requested part-time home working following the birth of her baby. For the first year she worked three days a week, following the birth of her second baby she then asked to reduce to two days per week.

What then happened was predictable. At least I think it was…

  • Her manager gradually lost touch with what she could do, and what her skills were.
  • Her colleagues could never remember which her working days were, so phoned her less and less.
  • She never met new colleagues or developed relationships with co-workers, because she chose to work almost all her days from home.
  • Over time she started to feel like she was no longer part of the team, that she was neglected and that no one valued her skills.
  • Her confidence and self esteem then plummeted and the ‘blame game’ began.

Not surprisingly, as I have seen this many times before, not once did I ever hear her say that perhaps her insistence on part-time, home working over so many years had caused this situation. Perhaps it’s easier to play the blame game?

Home working and part-time working (whether you are employed or self employed) can be fantastic. But be under no illusions about it being all positive. Extended home working can impact in numerous ways and some people, even if they have three children under five who need them at home, are just not suited to home working.

  • I believe that those who are social creatures and who love being in and around other people often seriously struggle with home working. They feel isolated, neglected and shut out.
  • I believe that those who get their energy and ideas by bouncing off others, frequently ‘wither and die’ (professionally of course) if stuck at home. They feel bored, uninspired and switched off.
  • I believe that those who are easily distracted and who can find self motivation difficult often struggle at home. They feel lost or out of control, de-energised and unsatisfied with work generally.

What is really concerning though is that people often decide home working is for them without sufficient self awareness of the long-term impact. Individuals make decisions because it is practical to work from home or because working from home feels like freedom from all the hassles of the office. But in making that decision, far more thought needs to be given to individual personalities and how isolation from others might make them feel or behave.

What first feels like freedom, can, for some, soon start to feel like an extended sentence in solitary confinement. Be aware!

Do you work from home? What are your thoughts and experiences? I’d love to hear your comments below…

Do you need career coaching? Get in touch!

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