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Tuesday, 19 December, 2000, 21:40 GMT
Working from home - is it more stressful?

No more crowded trains, no more clapped out air-conditioning, no boss peering over your shoulder - working from home sounds like a stress-free idyll.

But a new UK study of 'teleworkers' has suggested they can suffer from greater stress, resentment, and frustration than their office colleagues.

The problems were reportedly worse for men than for women.

The findings came from interviews with 74 staff journalists from two national newspapers, a tabloid and a broadsheet, half of whom worked from home.


If your computer goes wrong at work it's bad enough, but at home it can be a nightmare

Dr Sandi Mann
Researcher
Though generally happy to work from home, the teleworkers reported more negative symptoms than those in the office, including poor concentration, trouble sleeping, and greater pressure.

Researcher Dr Sandi Mann, a senior lecturer in occupational psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, told BBC News Online that teleworking was not "a golden ideal".

Teleworkers tended to work longer hours and put themselves under more pressure to counteract the fact that they were invisible, she said.

They could also feel isolated, not only from the emotional support of their colleagues, but also from the practical.

Traffic jam
Teleworkers avoid the jams, but can end up more stressed
"If your computer goes wrong at work it's bad enough, but at home it can be a nightmare," said Dr Mann.

Working from home was sometimes seen as "not having a proper job" by peers, and this apparent loss of status was felt more keenly by men than women, she said.

But two journalists interviewed by News Online insisted working from home was preferable to commuting into an office.

Rob Evans, a Guardian journalist, said working from home meant less disruption and more flexible hours.

"I can also avoid all the office politics."


I like the freedom of being able to work when I want. Now I've got children I fit in with them

Rob Edwards
Teleworker
Edinburgh-based freelance journalist Rob Edwards, who contributes to both New Scientist and the Sunday Herald in Scotland, has worked from home for about 20 years.

"I like the freedom of being able to work when I want. Now I've got children I fit in with them."

But he warned it was important to maintain contact with other journalists, to make a clear distinction between your work and home life, and to strictly control your hours.

Dr Mann carried out the study with Lynn Holdsworth from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

Virtual water cooler breaks

Their findings were due to be presented at the British Psychological Society's London conference on Wednesday.

Dr Mann said while teleworking could be hugely successful, it was important for firms to be aware of the pitfalls, particularly isolation.

Some US companies have introduced "virtual water cooler breaks" or set times when teleworkers get together via e-mail or internet chat rooms, said Dr Mann.

Alan Denbeigh, executive director of the Teleworking Association, said: "Employers must realise that they won't get the full benefits of people working from home if they don't think through their policies properly."

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