Tag Archives: home-working

Want to be your own boss? Think hard about it before you take the plunge

figure_work_life_balance_500_wht_13760Working for yourself is not the bed of roses assumed by many fed-up employees.

Research shows that self-employed people work the longest hours for the worst pay.

So you’re not going to get rich quick and forget work-life balance!

The self-employed work longer hours with a third putting in more than 45 hours a week and 1/8 working 60 hours or more.

They are also among the countries poorest paid earning just half of what people earning regular employment. Median earnings for the average self-employed person are £207 a week.

Self-employment is at an all-time high with the Office of National Statistics (ONS) recording 4.6 million self-employed people which is 15% of the nation’s workforce (compared to only 9% in 1975).

The government’s take on this is that it shows we are a nation of entrepreneurs. The more cynical observer might point to people going into self-employment because they can’t get a regular job.

Over a million people who were self-employed in 2004 were working for someone else by 2009 suggesting that many people would prefer a steady job with a steady income – if they could get one. The self-employed tend to be older on average, about 47 years of age, than employees and it’s harder to get jobs the older you are.

The numbers are also distorted by the number of over-65s, half a million, who have  eschewed retirement to become self-employed (a sad reflection on the level of our pensions in this country compared to the rest of Europe).

The TUC has picked up on this noting that almost half of the UK’s self-employed are over 50 and not quite the bright young entrepreneurs the government would like us to believe.

What do the self-employed actually do? Top jobs are builders, taxi drivers, and carpenters with a fast-growing group of managers. The latter group presumably reflecting company downsizing or stressed managers wanting to became consultants?

As I’ve posted before working for yourself is not easy and working from home especially has its own problems.

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Flexible working not popular with everybody

geek_icon_1600_wht_9297Flexible working seems to be on the increase, desired by many workers, and even welcomed by many employers.

However it seems that many Generation Y (those born between 1980s and early 1990s) employees think people who work flexibly are not as committed to their jobs as those who work from the office every day.

At least according to a survey by a company of employment solicitors.

They found that while Generation Y employees were quick to complain about discrimination they were also more likely to display hostile attitudes towards equality policies.

The report said it reinforced the reputation of these younger workers as being “awkward” and “difficult to manage“.

It does seem a paradox that these Generation Y employees, who love their technology (ideal for flexible working) and work-life balance are so disapproving.

 

Working from home more popular

puzzle_piece_house_outline_1600_wht_4232Fed up of that stressful commute to work or having a bad day at the office?

Avoid all that by working from home.

It’s the new status symbol – according to the Office of National Statistics.

1 in 7 of us now work from home ie 4.2 million people of which 1.5 million actually work there with the others using home as a base while working in different places.

Three-quarters of home-based workers are  classed as higher skilled compared to one half of office-based workers.

So working from one seems to be restricted to high-flyers;  1/7 are managers or senior officials, 1/3 are professionals, and 1/4 are from high-skilled trades.

Median earnings for home-workers are £13.23  an hour compared to £10.50 for other workers. A third work for other people or companies with two-thirds are self-employed and the older the worker the more likely are they to work from home.

The age difference might be due to seniority or the fact that older workers made redundant find it more difficult to get jobs and often end up working for themselves.

There are regional differences with home-based working more popular in the south-west and far less common in the north.

Better technology has made working from home more cost-effective although many bosses still don’t trust staff who work from home even though there is evidence that they put in more hours and can be more productive.

Deloitte has introduced an “agile working programme” and is inviting its 12,000 UK employees to apply to work from home or in other flexible ways.

Deloitte think it will attract and retain female staff but also improve working lives generally.

Not everyone agrees. Marissa Mayer banned Yahoo! staff from working from home when she became Chief Executive.

She said “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussion, meeting new people and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo! and that starts with being physically together“.

Easy for her to say  and not doing women any favours when she built a crèche for her baby next to her office.

Is working from home more productive?

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Marissa Mayer made the news when she banned employees at Yahoo from working from home.

Recent call-centre research by Nicholas Bloom at Stanford University  found that allowing staff to work from home over a 9-month period led to happier, more productive staff, with fewer leavers.

The company originally thought that productivity would drop but that would be offset by saving money on office space and furniture. In the event the home-based staff completed 13.5% more calls than the office-based staff.

The researchers thought that 1/3 of the productivity increase was due to a quieter environment with the remainder du to the home-workers working longer hours.

The home workers started earlier and had shorter breaks and because they weren’t commuting worked until the end of the day.

Sick days also plummeted (so more like self-employed workers in that respect).

It may be that because call-centre work is more robotic and easily measured that such big benefits were found. It might be different for creative or knowledge workers. And if there is low morale people might start slacking.

So was Mayer right to ban home-working? We don’t really know what the situation was at Yahoo but it generated negative publicity when she had a nursery built next to her office with an element of the Queen Bee syndrome.

Not everyone wants to work from home. It seems that younger people, whose social life often revolves around work, are less likely to want to work from home compared with older workers who are married with established families.

In the call-centre example the home-workers self-selected so might have been more motivated to start with. Some opted to go back into the office at the end of the 9 months and these turned out to be the poorer performers.

The biggest resistance appears to come from middle management who worry about losing control of people working remotely.

Perhaps the best solution is to let people work a couple of days a week from home, especially in bad weather or as in London when they held the Olympic Games. These could be mandatory days or on a rotation.

Main source: HBR January-February 2014

Men and Women at Work

Work affects men and women differently, no doubt about it.

Being happily married helps women resist work-place stress whilst men dissatisfied with their jobs are more likely to flirt.

If you’re a working mum stop worrying about it having negative effects on your kids but try not to work more than 30 hours a week.

If you’re a stay-at-home dad then you’re probably more satisfied with your life than dads who go out to work but, like many women, miss adult conversation.

If you are an independent women rejecting help may make people believe you are competent but cold, and vice versa. Not so for men.

In a mixed group women cooperate more than men but men are more cooperative than women when working in a single sex group.

But men and women do have one thing in common: taking work home – whether mentally or physically –  can depress you and make you feel tired.

A study at UCLA, published in 2008 in Health Psychology, showed that happily married working women rebounded quicker from daily stress than women in less happy relationships.

Men showed lower stress levels as the day progressed – as measured by levels of cortisol in their saliva – whether happily married or not. So while marriage is often seen as good for men’s health it may come at a price for women in unhappy relationships.

But there is good news for working mums. Research at the University of Bath, published this year, shows that working mums are significantly less likely to suffer from depression whether part-time or full-time and regardless of salary level: single mums 15% less likely and mums in a partnership 6% less likely.

The researchers said there seems to be little evidence to link stress at work to depression. Women going back to work showed a 26% drop in mental health problems compared to an increase of 25% for women giving up work. And the same results have been found in a 10-year study in America where working mums also report fewer symptoms of depression than mums who don’t work. Working part-time was the healthiest option of all.

We have known for decades that unemployment was bad for men and now the same applies to women. Work gives you a sense of identity and boosts your self-esteem which impacts on your well-being.

And there’s no evidence that babies suffer when their mums work. Past research has found that returning to work early results in children who are slower learners and UNICEF recommended in 2008 that women stay at home for the first 12 months rather than put their children at risk.

But the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care followed 1,000 children over 7 years tracking their families and their development. The research published by the Society for Research in Child Development in 2010 showed that overall the net impact was neutral: the advantages of more income and better child care offset any downsides of the mums returning to work. Again part-time working of up to 30 hours a week offered better outcomes than full-time working.

But women don’t have it all their own way at work. When it comes to “benevolent sexism” a study reported in the European Journal of Social Psychology  last year showed that women couldn’t win. If they accept someone’s offer of help, for example opening a door for them or helping with a computer problem, they are seen as warmer but less competent; if they reject help they are seen as competent but cold.

And the same researchers found that accepting help meant that women were judged less suitable for managerial jobs while rejecting help led to their being judged less suitable for care jobs that relied on emotional skills.

For men the results were different. Rejecting offers of help led to them being judged as competent but not less warm. And it seems men are judged both competent and warmer when they offer help which is accepted.

It seem that independent women are seen as competent but cold mainly by people who believe in benevolent sexism and who adopt paternalistic attitudes.

A review by Balliet of 50 years of research discovered that men are actually more cooperative than women. And they are more likely to help strangers and be cooperative in large groups, whereas women are seen as more supportive and agreeable.

Perhaps surprisingly men are more cooperative in single sex groups than women but in mixed sex groups women are more cooperative.

It seems that when men and women are working together they resort to stereotypical behaviours because of the presence of the opposite sex. Perhaps men like to show women how dominant they are which reduces cooperation.

And sexist men earn more, at least in the USA. Research at Florida University (published in the Journal of Applied Psychology) showed that men with traditional attitudes earned substantially more than their egalitarian colleagues whereas for women it was the other way round – although not such a big salary difference.

Over a 25-year period the traditionally-minded men earned an average of $8,459 more annually than egalitarian-minded men and $11,374 on average more than traditionally-minded women. The gap between egalitarian men and women was much less at $1,330.

The differences occurred regardless of education, type of job, family commitments or hours worked and the researchers aren’t really sure why. They surmise it might be unconscious bias.

Talking of egalitarian men, it seems that “stay at home” dads do better in terms of life, marital, and job satisfaction, than dads who work outside the home, according to research reported at the American Psychological Association’s 2007 Annual Convention.

Men were staying at home for a number of reasons including deferring to their wives’ higher earnings potential and wanted to be more involved in bringing up their children. Being a full-time dad did have some stigmas attached and they also reported missing the adult work-place interactions (something often mentioned by women when they decide to return to work).

Finally one thing that applies to everybody: taking work home, whether mentally or physically, can make you feel depressed and tired. Researchers at the University of Konstanz found that the greater people’s workload and work hours the harder it was to detach themselves from work. Workers experiencing high work demands need more recovery time but are less likely to get it because of their work habits and not having time to switch off.

Those workers with hobbies or who engaged in physical activity reported feeling less tired and more engaged. But the researchers also point out that thinking about work can be a mood booster as well if people are reflecting on their successes and accomplishments.

But let’s give the final words to women. There is evidence that while women can contribute a lot to teams they don’t always perform at their best in them. They are also more critical of organisations. And there are people who believe that women are the winners at work anyway!

Can Working from Home work?

The government is encouraging thousands of civil servants to work from home during the Olympics

(if nothing else an acknowledgement of the chaos and disruption about to be unleashed on Londoners).

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the CBI both say 2 out of 5 London employers are doing the same.

The CIPD also said that its research found that 70% of employers said that flexible working improved employee retention and motivation.

Many people, including The Mayor of London, think it’s a skiver’s charter but modern technological surveillance can track locations via GPS and even key-strokes on a computer if necessary.

Security and data protection are probably bigger issues when staff might not have password protected computers or use memory sticks that aren’t encrypted. The London Borough of Barnet was recently fined £70,000 when details of vulnerable children were stolen from an employee’s home. But that can be a problem in the workplace too as more employers use a BOYD (bring your own device) policy.

And will people get a taste for working from home? Home-working is not without its problems as I’ve posted on before.

Think Twice about Working from Home

unless you have a strong relationship.

When I wrote about working from home last December we were in the grip of snow and bad weather and it seemed a good idea to stay at home, off the roads, warm and safe.

This year there may be more people who have no choice after losing their jobs and either job-seeking or deciding they will have to work for themselves.

In either case it probably means having to set up an office at home.

New research from the Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York shows that people working from home find it difficult to switch off from their domestic life. You know the kind of thing: walking the dog, doing the shopping, preparing a meal.

All that can make domestic disputes worse. The “you’ve been at home all day and the dishes are still in the sink” scenario.

So although working from home seems the easier option people can feel more stressed than if they had commuted to work. The more work and family demands competed the more exhausted people felt.

Professor Golden, who led the study of 3,000 home-workers, said; “those with already high levels of work-family conflicts suffered higher exhaustion when they spent extensive time working from home”.

People with low levels of work-family conflict seemed to be better able to cope with working from home.

Working from home, or teleworking, is on the increase in the UK and the Telework Association believes that it’s a win-win situation for both employers and employees as they say it improves both productivity and work-life balance.

The productivity argument is probably true as tele-workers work harder so as not to be seen to abuse the system. However the work-life balance is harder to achieve.

It comes down to whether or not you can create boundaries between work and family, either physically eg working in the garden shed or equivalent, or psychologically being able to switch attention and focus on the work when needed.

Of course some people go to work to get away from problems at home and vice-versa.There will always be people, usually those who are more extraverted, who prefer to work in the presence of others for a variety of reasons including the social aspects.