Career Aid: Home alone: the magazine: A new journal puts telecommuters in the picture, Roger Trapp reports

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The Independent Online
AS THE RUSH to work from home - or telecommute - gathers pace, more and more people are recognising the isolation it can involve.

Although we might not always admit it, most of us crave the companionship of our fellow workers.

For this reason, a week split between the home and the office is considered the best of both worlds by many. It is possible to achieve a lot in the quiet days at home, and also to benefit from the momentum and 'buzz'of the office atmosphere.

But not all the estimated million people who work from home at least some of the time have this option. About 60,000 are self-employed and work for a variety of clients; others work for one company but never go near its headquarters.

The recently launched magazine Home Run is aimed at these people in particular. Conceived by a couple with much experience in the field, the magazine has attracted great interest since it appeared in October. The small firms minister, Baroness Denton, will, for example, contribute a column to the next issue.

Although the 1,000 free copies of the first two issues have produced just 100 subscriptions, Andrew James, a computer specialist, and his wife, Sophie Chalmers, a freelance television researcher, hope to make a profit within a year.

By seeking to provide home- workers with some sense of belonging to a community, the magazine is striking a chord, Mr James says.

'We want to provide a forum of interchange between home- workers and to give them that sense that they are not missing out.' A number of articles have dealt with maintaining morale and sanity.

This is particularly important at the moment, with a significant number of people forced into home-working. Whether made redundant like Mr James, or victims of what the management guru Charles Handy has termed 'the shamrock organisation' - companies that concentrate on a core of high-paid individuals and buy in expertise on demand - many people have to accept a situation that does not necessarily suit them.

Self-discipline is vital, Mr James says. Effective home- working depends on having a dedicated office - 'It is no use trying to work on the kitchen table after the kids have had their breakfast' - and on ensuring work starts and finishes at a reasonable time. Working from home offers flexibility and other advantages, but it also brings distractions, and Home Run suggests ways of dealing with them.

Besides moral support, the magazine features practical advice. The early issues have carried articles by accountants on tax, a feature by a quilt maker on making a hobby pay, an introduction to telecottages (buildings in rural areas equipped with facsimile machines, computers and other business equipment), and the merits of corporate identity for the one-man band.

Keen both to work from home and set up a journal of this type, Mr James has collected information on the subject for many years. He also gained experience in desktop publishing while working for a number of computer companies. His wife is an experienced sub- editor.

Their chance came when Mr James lost his job. The redundancy programme plus savings were enough to get the project going in the top floor of their west London house.

But, as Mr James says: 'We had no idea of how much it was going to cost. It kept on haemorrhaging. We've learnt by hindsight.' It is not inconceivable that a future issue will carry an article about the birth of the magazine itself.

For more information contact Active Information, 79 Black Lion Lane, London W6 9BG.

(Photograph omitted)

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