A recent survey has shown that only 6% of us are now working the traditional 9-to-5. Unsurprisingly after a summer of commuting, more and more people want to work from home. But can you work effectively there? And what should you do?
By Mark Richards.
It has been a long, hot summer – especially if you have been commuting to work and you have been stuck in a traffic jam or sardined into a crowded, baking hot train carriage.
As you sit at home over the Bank Holiday weekend it would be entirely understandable if your thoughts turned towards something less stressful and a lot cooler – working from home.
We mentioned a while back that the preferred working hours in the UK are now 8 until 4 as opposed to the traditional 9 to 5. In fact, a recent YouGov survey suggests that only 6% of people are now working those hours, as more and more people opt to work flexibly as they look to juggle commitments and find a better work/life balance.
YouGov polled 4,000 adults and found that the most popular working time was – as above – 8-to-4, which was chosen by 37% of people responding, followed by 7-to-3 at 21%. People who did work flexibly said that it improved their motivation and encouraged them to stay in the job for longer.
Of course, the ultimate flexibility comes from working from home – and who would not want to exchange a two-hour commute for the two-minute commute to the spare bedroom. More and more of us are opting to work from home, whether that means working for ourselves or – as an increasing number of companies embrace flexible working – moving out of the office and into the spare bedroom.
Before you do that, though, there is a very important question to answer…
Can you really work from home?
Working from home sounds attractive. But there is one very important psychological point you need to consider. Some people – and I am one of them – simply need the discipline of going into an office. I am just not as productive at home as I am at the office and whatever I pay in rent, I more than make up for in being more focused at work. It is all too easy to get distracted at home. The dishwasher needs emptying, we need something for dinner, it is a nice day, I’ll walk the dog. And will your partner and/or children accept that when you are working, you are working? Daddy may be at home, but the children need to understand that he is working.
And can you make real money?
The $64,000 question is – can you make any money working from home? Clearly if you work from home your monthly expenses immediately drop: no more expensive commuting and no more sandwiches to buy from the shop around the corner. But for too many people, ‘working from home’ has meant earning a little bit of pin money at the kitchen table.
So we have made some suggestions – although it is easy to do the exercise for yourself. Tap ‘work from home best-paying jobs’ into Google and you will be presented with more than 200m results. Sadly some of them will promise you the earth if you just ‘send £200 for your first delivery and our can’t fail tutorial’ and at the other end of the scale you will see plenty of articles saying you can do very nicely working from home as a Senior iOS Developer, systems engineer or research molecular biologist.
Of course, you can. “What’s this in the fridge, Mum?” “Oh, this nice Mr Putin asked me to do some tests for him…”
Let us be realistic. The vast majority of us need to work within the confines of our existing educational qualifications, our homes and our families. Converting the spare room to an office is one thing: converting it to a molecular biology lab is quite another…
So here are some rather more practical suggestions…
Do what you are doing now
If a company employs you they need to pay your salary, employer’s national insurance, pension contribution, give you a space to work, a desk… You are an expensive toy, so doing what you are doing now, just doing it for yourself and from home could be a realistic option. It represents an immediate saving to your current employer and a far better work/life balance for you. You already have the skills, you already know the industry – and what you do for one employer (or client, as they will become) you can do for another…
The world is littered with parents – especially mums – who have given up work to go on maternity leave, started blogging about their pregnancy and their early experience of being a mum and never gone back to work. For a small number of bloggers, this has proved to be initially a lucrative sideline and – ultimately – a full-time job. It is not easy – and many of the very successful ones had plenty of existing media contacts to get them started – but it can be done. As can building a career as a freelance copywriter which (along with writing books) is what I do. Again, getting started can be hard work and there will not be a freelance writer in the country who has not had some hairy moments with the cash flow. But get yourself a good bank of clients, never miss your deadlines and sitting at your desk tapping out content has a lot to recommend it.
Social media manager
There are any number of companies who know that they should be doing far more with social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest… The list is endless and, in my experience, many companies are in the halfway house between having someone ‘who sort of does it’ and employing a full-time social media manager. It is a great job to do from home – after all, we have all posted tweets in our pyjamas.
Neither do you need clients that are local to you. I have one client in the town where I live, with the others spread around the UK and one client in Thailand.
As modern technology and the accompanying apps get ever more sophisticated, working from home is becoming to become a very real prospect for a lot of us. If you decide to make the leap, you do need to know that you are psychologically suited to it, and you need to know that your income is not going to take a hit. As you sit in the garden over the weekend, converting the spare room might be something to think about…