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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 April, 2003, 23:08 GMT 00:08 UK
Home working 'mixed blessing'
Woman working
Woman have a different home work experience to men

The dream of kissing goodbye to the pressures of work and setting up office in your own back yard has prompted a new study looking at the pros and cons of home working.

Every year thousands of men and women decide to give up working in factories, shops and offices to work instead from their home environment.

How this affects the quality of their home life was the subject for a study by researchers from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Their survey revealed that despite the benefits of less travel and more flexibility, some found new pressures to deal with in their alternative working environment.

Commitments

Dr Jeanne Moore and Tracey Crosbie of the University of Teesside talked to 123 people in the north of England and Wales who had switched to home working.

There's a better work-life balance
Home worker Gill Price

They found that for many the change brought marked benefits, including flexibility, independence and freedom from surveillance.

But on the downside there was a new stress of working longer hours, balancing work and family commitments, and the "invasion" of the work environment on the home space.

The study participants were from various groups of employment and had varying levels of skill, resources and control over their work.

Home workers in professional occupations seemed to gain the most satisfaction from the experience, compared with those in traditional occupations (eg packing and assembly work).

But all home workers with young children find it difficult to balance home and work responsibilities, particularly when they could not afford childcare.

Psychological reasons

Traditional home workers can have less choice and control over the work they do, and often have less physical space in which to do that work for less financial reward, the study found.

There was also a difference in the experiences of men and women to home working.

Women in professional or managerial jobs who see their home and work responsibilities as equal saw more tensions between their home and working life.

But there was also some psychological reasons why people were better suited to home working.

Many experienced less stress, found it easy to self-motivate and feel they have greater control over their working life.

Woman cleaning
Dividing the home tasks can be difficult for home workers

The downside came ironically from the flexibility home working provides - with many of those interviewed admitted to working in the evenings and weekends.

One of the challenges facing professional home workers is a tendency to overwork.

The association with the home as a workplace lay at the crux of the study.

Some spoke of feeling more "at home" - particularly those with good ties in the local community. It prompted some to make more effort at homemaking.

Others complained of being unable to relax or escape work and that their new working environment was at odds with their feelings about "home".

Having enough space to devote to home working was seen as crucial.




SEE ALSO:
Why flexible hours can work
23 Apr 03  |  Business
New rules for young workers
04 Apr 03  |  Business


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