Home workers happier, able to balance responsibilities despite long hours

flexible workingNew research claims that home-based employees are choosing to work more hours than those who work in traditional offices. According to the study carried out by homeworking agency Sensée, despite opting to work more hours daily, home workers are generally happier because they’re empowered to choose the hours they work so they can still attend to family responsibilities. Three quarters of home workers (77 percent) stated that working from home enables them to achieve more, including caring for family members or friends and exercising more. Time and money saved on commuting – along with more control over their day – were cited among the top three benefits of working from home. The research also claims there is a desire to work from home among office-based employees. Three-fifths (81 percent) of office-based employees said they would take the opportunity to work from home either full time or part time to care for a family member or friend.

The issue of how employers can do more to help employees balance work and other responsibilities has been raised recently by the CIPD.  It suggests that just one third (34 percent) of businesses have policies that support working carers – despite research suggesting that up to three million people across the UK combine paid work with caring for a disabled, older or ill family member or friend.

A quarter (26 per cent) of employers have a formal written policy in place to support employees who are juggling work and caring commitments at home, and eight per cent have an informal, verbal policy aimed at the needs of carers, according to the joint report from the CIPD and Westfield Health.

Meanwhile, almost two-fifths (38 per cent) have no policies at all, nor plans to implement them in the near future.  The problem is particularly prevalent in the private sector, where just 11 per cent of organisations offer line manager training; just 18 per cent have a formal, written policy aimed at supporting working carers; and only one in five (20 per cent) know how many working carers they employ.

The joint research – which combined four in-depth online focus groups involving a cross-section of 23 working carers, and a survey of 554 senior HR professionals – reveals that working carers have very limited knowledge or understanding of the kind of support they could be entitled to in the workplace.

The figures also suggest that 70 per cent of employers do not keep track of how many of their staff have caring responsibilities, but Claire McCartney, resourcing and talent planning adviser at the CIPD, said both measurement and line manager training were key to supporting the working carer population.

“Employers need to view working carers as an opportunity, rather than a challenge, and see that listening to and understanding what they need from their employer is important,” she said. “Although official policies for working carers will help to legitimise their place in the labour market, they need not be prescriptive and should focus on empowering individuals.”

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