Work: The home working revolution has stalled

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The Independent Online
The brave new world where most of us were expected to work at home in front of a computer has not happened.

In the 1980s it was estimated that around half the labour force could become "teleworkers". Yet little over a million people are estimated to work from home, and many are in low-paid, unskilled jobs owing little to technology. Apparently only 6 per cent of organisations have such arrangements, according to a report out yesterday.

Many industries were simply not suited to teleworking and some managers were suspicious of the whole idea. There seemed to be problems of "ignorance, mistrust and envy" among both managers and colleagues and a belief that home-workers were "getting away with something", the report said. Not all employees had the requisite self-contained personality, the "understanding partner" or the spacious homes to deal with it.

Interviews with 62 home-workers, mostly professionals and managers, showed work-related stress was reduced but family problems were exacerbated, the researchers, Dr Yehuda Baruch and Professor Nigel Nicholson, said. They found nevertheless that an overwhelming majority felt that working from home made them better performers and wanted to continue. Most of the sample had volunteered to work from home with only 1 in 10 saying it had been imposed on him or her.

The study, Home, sweet work: requirements for effective home-working, sponsored by Sun Life Assurance, found there was a clear need for self- management and self-discipline among such workers. Extroverts could suffer "social deprivation" from the absence of workmates, it said.

While the authors acknowledged advantages in home-working, they expressed concern about the creation of an "autistic society" in which a lack of contact with others might render teleworkers less able to deal with strangers. Teleworking might be for "the few rather than the many", they said.

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