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Last Updated: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 09:53 GMT
Home working trial proves popular
Lavender field in Norfolk, BBC
Remote working might mean we all end up in the countryside
Four people have been trapped in their homes for 48 hours to discover the benefits and pitfalls of teleworking.

Run by net firm Telewest the trial tried to find out if workers can do their job better when at home.

Those taking part said they did get more done but missed the chance to chat face-to-face with colleagues and contacts.

Being at home also gave those taking part much more time to spend with their families.

Confined to quarters

Howard Watson, chief technology officer of Telewest Broadband, said the trial was not just a test of technologies that make it easier to connect to corporate systems from home or other remote locations.

As well, he said, the trial was undertaken to see just what difference it can make to a working day and to see what effect it had on an employee's ability to manage their day's work.

"The one resounding factor that all participants agree on is that home working enables them to get more work done in a shorter time," he said.

On the first day of the trial Colin Dean, systems director at timber firm Arnold Laver, said: "I have been absolutely flying through my work this morning."

"I also did something I haven't done for years - eat lunch," he said, "I know this sounds really insignificant, but to the people who work with me in the office this will be a revolution."

The participants in the trial said that they got so much done because they did not have to deal with the constant round of interruptions that punctuate a day in the office.

However, said Mr Watson, this separation did expose one of the problems of remote working.

Family out for a walk, BBC
Teleworking might help us balance work and family life
The fact that the trial participants could not talk face-to-face with colleagues and contacts in other firms was seen as a disadvantage.

Not being able to find and talk to a co-worker could mean that some tasks take longer when out of the office and working remotely.

The biggest advantage reported by those taking part was the extra time home working gave them to spend with their families.

"Doing away with commuting meant they could get more work done and had more personal time available in the evenings," said Mr Watson.

Some of those taking part were able to drop children off at school, pick them up, help with homework and get a full day's work done.

I found time to run an errand this lunchtime and get some petrol as I'm going out this evening," said Nick Harwood, group computer Security manager at insurance firm Royal London.

"I suppose the benefit of being at home is having the flexibility to pop out and do this," he said.

Those taking part are all employed at companies that are customers of Telewest Business.

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