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Monday, 6 August, 2001, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Teleworking: Just an extension of office hours?
Research for the TUC found that home computers were more likely to be used by stressed executives taking work home with them.
The study says that teleworking, supposed to allow people to spend more time at home, has only occurred on a limited scale.
Employees in the UK already work the longest hours in Europe and the TUC says they are now expected to work at home at weekends or in the evening.
Do you work from home? Would you like to? Or do you find yourself taking extra work home at weekends or in the evenings?
Office or home? It doesn't really matter. The real issue is the "work work work" culture currently prevalent in the UK.
Companies are always willing to take advantage of workers, many of whom are in fear of losing their job if they refuse to work long hours. Employees market Mr Cooper? I think not.
And now we have to put up with advertising from companies in the mobile phone industry, extolling the virtues of their latest technology and how it allows us to work anywhere. Madness.
I am a self-employed web programmer and use the internet for my work. This means that I can work practically anywhere and so I choose to work at home. I like it because it's flexible and I can choose to work whenever I like. It means that sometimes I work at weekends and evenings, but I can also do things during the day when other people are chained to their desks. Working at home is not for everyone though. It requires self-discipline and you should be able to work without guidance.
Freddie Tan, Singapore
I live and work in a rural area. Being able to work from home has several advantages. The first is that I have reduced my fuel bill by 50%. The second is that I get twice as much work done in half the time; the half I save I spend 'doing my own thing'.
Run like blazes from "telework"! I've seen too many friends chained to their work by laptops, pagers and wireless to want anything to do with it. They are never "off work", they are always available to their bosses for Saturday night "emergency projects", always having to cancel leisure to "take care of a few things". I've recently turned down a promotion and a 20% raise, as it required being on call and lugging a wireless laptop. The extra money just isn't worth it. Am I poorer or richer because of that move? You decide.
At IBM we are encouraged to work from home more. Not having to commute in saves money and time but most importantly, it saves the environment. It has to be the way we work in the future, and the Government should actively support it to reduce congestion and pollution. It's also ideal when you want to work on something without being continually distracted by colleagues, e-mail and the phone. With a laptop you can also work in the garden, the park, the beach or wherever you want.
Although I work many hours every week (40-60), that is my choice. I own my own business however I do not expect my staff to do it. We must remember that everything thing in our lives is our choice. It is an employees market at the moment so if you do not like what you are doing - change it!
I work from home... it has benefits, but also downsides. An ISDN line is essential if you use the internet - so if your employers want you net-connected, make sure they pay for it. What is most important is that life is a balance of work and play...I've put in 60-70hr weeks back-to-back for a couple of months, but in the end, my productivity declines.
My advice: take responsibility for your own life, negotiate with your employer and if necessary, find another job.
I have remote-worked for a couple of days a week this past 2 years. Like anything it has its good and bad sides. One room in the house is, to all purposes, an annex of the company I work for. Who picks up the tab? Me. I get to see my wife pre-school kids a great deal more during the day, but on the other hand it's difficult to focus on my work as I all too often get embroiled in the day to day crises that previously I would only have heard of on my return home. Whereas previously, when under my roof I was entirely focused on my family, I often have a nagging feeling that I should be sorting out some work issue.
On rare sick days, I will often continue working using the excuse, "Well it's not as if I am at deaths door" Remote working allows many SMEs to expand without the financial exposure it once entailed.
The day my employer expects me to work more hours than it pays me for is the day I make a call - not to the employment office, but to the police. Slavery is a felony.
Graham Wetton, UAE
What recent technologies allow me to do is to leave the office at 6, get home and play with my son, have dinner as a family and then log in remotely to do another 1-1.5 hrs work. As I'm (usually) not interrupted it is usually more productive and maintains a reasonable balance between work and family. I'm glad that I have this choice.
Working from home is double sided sword. When it gives you the flexibility to work from home, it also carries work to home. So, if you enjoy the family time or not depends on your priorities.
Work is the curse of the drinking classes. Politicians don't do it nor do priests or royalty, so why should we? Work should be disposed of. The only people who actually work are factory workers and the like, farmers, policemen, nurses, firemen bless them and some doctors - that's about it.
I've worked for my present company for about three months and for the first time in 10 years as a software engineer, I've been allowed to work from home on as and when it suits both me and the company. I find it very motivating, I work well in my own home, it saved me three hours travelling and about £10 - I always work some of the three hours I save as I'm grateful. It reduced my stress levels and makes me feel that I'm trusted and viewed as responsible. Companies who haven't seriously considered this option have no idea how much they are missing out on. There certainly are periods when it is vitally important to be at the office, particularly when the work gets turbulent and you need to consult. I believe that (at certain times) up to 3 days a week working at home would improve the amount and quality of the work I do.
I get to work at home up to two days per week, although as I now only work 53 miles away in Cambridge I don't need to do it that often. however, when I take it up it's great - I can go out late the night before, have a few beers with my mates and still get up after a lie-in in time to start at 8.30am. I can then work all day and finish at 4.30 having done a full eight-hour day (I don't do lunch) and do afternoon stuff which is normally a rarity. However, I try to take it seriously as one of the suspicions of home-working is the kick-back mentality: watch a bit of telly, do some stuff around the house or "look after the kids". It's a real discipline to actually treat it in the same way as you would at work, and not take it a bit easier than you might normally when everyone else can see what you're doing...
I have worked from home for the last 4 months or so. It means I get heaps more time with my family. If I finish at 5.30 I am home at 5.30. No more stressed commuting in a stuffy train anymore.
Telecommuting has enabled me to stay home to raise my infant daughter, rather than put her into day care to be raised by strangers.
It has been a great boon to me, and my employer is happy that I am still available and they do not have to find a replacement for me. Telecommuters are judged solely by their economic output, as all employees should be: Office workers may be able to just show up at the office, goof off, and expect a pay check, but telecommuters can't.
I work from home four days a week. On the odd day I do travel in I find I am less productive due to the tiring 90 minute journey to and from work. Also, I begin work at home at around the same time I would leave on my journey to work, and stop around the time I would arrive home. I therefore do around three hours more work in a day, and am less tired in the evening having cut out the stressful travel.
Guy Chapman, UK
I have been working from home a couple of days per week for a few years now and find it adds greatly to my quality of life. There's less stress due to early rises and long travel time to London and it's also convenient for having workmen call during the week. I don't want to do it permanently as I enjoy the social interaction in the office. I don't allow it to intrude on my life as I'm very strict about disconnecting from the company network at 5 pm. There are probably thousands of people in London alone who could quite easily do this and perhaps the Government should be promoting teleworking as a way to reducing congestion on the roads in a way that more buses and tubes simply cannot.
We Brits already work the longest hours in Europe, why should we work more? Taking work home allows companies to get away with inefficiencies and under-staffing at the expense of staff morale.
Dan F, England
I plead guilty to taking work home, but I wouldn't want it any other way! I find that I can do certain jobs on my home PC between around 11.30pm and 1.00am when everyone else is asleep, then have it all ready to roll when I get back to work at 8.30 and can hit the ground running. My work time is thus made far more productive, although nobody pays me for those extra midnight hours!
Some people like myself are working from home without realising it most of the time. Even whilst relaxing in the bath at home, one finds him/herself mulling over the latest challenge at work. I've been 'taking' work home for years and never got paid a penny for it!
I would welcome the opportunity to work from home. In today's international global village, new technology allows us to make international contact from our laptop computers, and working in a familiar relaxed atmosphere would improve my efficiency. Even something as small as being able to get a cold drink from the fridge, or look after children etc. becomes part of the everyday working experience, which can only improve our quality of life.
I would like to work from home, as I am a single parent living in a rural area. I work alone and after travelling 1 hour 30 minutes, make constant use of a PC all day. In my circumstances, I believe quality of life would be improved by working from home, but I believe there has to be a definite line between work and home for this to be successful.
I do find myself taking odd bits of work home from time to time and I don't really mind. Being salaried, I am expected to work the hours that are needed to meet the deadlines imposed. I think the problems come when an organisation is chronically under resourced and there is no direction from senior management as to what the priorities are - you end up listening to everyone shouting at you. I vowed a long time ago that I was going to "work to live" not "live to work". This stemmed from having seen my mother working every night and all through every weekend on top of her hours in the office (Senior University Admin). To a certain extent this is her choice - but not entirely - and the toll it has taken on her health and our relationship is hard to quantify.
James Newman, England
Where I work, we operate on a flexi-time policy. We turn up when we like, work as long as necessary, then we leave. However, working as long as necessary can result in many late nights, and several weekends of work when deadlines approach. We do get paid well, and we get to take some time off in-lieu, so the question is really about how willing you are to sacrifice a home life to earn money.
In the UK we have this ridiculous perception of undivided company loyalty and hard craft. The way we bust our gut is insane: what's the point of climbing the ladder to even more stress or to earn a salary that we haven't the energy to spend?
A mix of home and office work is probably best, most days in the office with the option of working from home if you want. It gives workers that "break" that many people need from the daily grind of going into the office but still allows the work to get done.
As I do 'teleworking' all of my work is done via a telephone and a pc on the net. The only changes my fellow workers and I would experience would be the savings in travel costs and avoiding the chance of canteen food poisoning.
Michael Thomas, London, UK
I would like to work from home to avoid having to use the pathetic excuse for a transport network in London. For me it's a case of either-or. I am not willing to work a full day at the office and then take work home as a matter of course. People who do this are creating a rod for their own backs and have only themselves to blame.
I am a consultant with Birmingham LEA working on the Birmingham Grid for Learning (www.bgfl.org). My team are currently trialling "virtual working" i.e. being able to work wherever and whenever we want. To date, for myself, the experience has been liberating. However, I usually choose to work in the office - the distractions of family life with young children at home can very easily get in the way of my work - and at the moment, I don't think my employer will be too willing to build me a study at the end of the garden!
The day I am asked to work at home is the day I hand in my notice! There has to be some "sanctuary" from the mad, work-obsessed world!
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