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May 19

Category: Career Advice, In the News, Technology

Arriving at work squashed, squeezed and feeling stressed from the commute, many Londoners may have considered working from home. Now official data has shown that more people are taking the plunge and home working in the capital than in any other part of the UK.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported that, as of mid-2014, there were 4.2 million homeworkers. That’s almost 14 percent of the entire British workforce. The number of homeworkers is growing fast as well, up by over a million in the last 15 years. And those not currently working from home would like to, at least some of the time. 66 per cent of 18-35 year olds want more flexible working arrangements, according to PwC.

Working from home remains a topic that divides managers, however. While some businesses like law firm Mishcon de Reya and cloud computing giant Salesforce have enthusiastically embraced home working over the past decade. Others – most famously Yahoo – go so far as to ban it.

True, there are downsides to not being in the office. A London Business School / University of California study found that remote workers may receive lower performance evaluations, smaller pay rises and fewer promotions. Yet the numbers keep rising: why?

Liberation from the commute may make you happier

Commuters are more likely to be stressed, anxious and dissatisfied than those who don’t have to travel to work, even when they’re paid more. That was what the ONS found when they combined their personal well-being data with their data on commuting trends.

The statisticians found that each additional minute of travel time made commuters feel slightly worse. It won’t come as news to Londoners familiar with being squeezed into tube trains, that it was rail commuters whom the data scientists found fared worst of all for most wellbeing measures.

It is unsurprising, then, that it is liberation from the daily grind of the commute that is one of the most commonly given reasons for choosing to work from home.

Technology means a wider range of jobs can be done remotely

Home working really became possible with the advent of superfast Internet in the early 2000s. However, it hasn’t really been until quite recently, and the widespread adoption of cloud computing, reliable video conferencing and innovative collaboration platforms that the tech has been good enough to allow disparate workers to really function well.

Today, home working is open to many more people than in the past. Mashable recently listed 20 of the most common work from home job titles and found some real surprises – SEO/marketing assistant, marketing manager, business development manager and UI/UX designer – among the more usual suspects, such as sales rep and copywriter.

Offices aren’t conducive to knuckling down

Do you ever find you have trouble focusing and knuckling down to big projects at work? Blame the office. Researchers have found that many modern workspaces may be so full of noise, interruptions and distractions that they are stifling our ability to focus and get things done. The consequence is that – if office based – thought intensive tasks, like coding or writing, may be taking much longer to complete.

Of course one obvious solution is for workers who need to knuckle down to work from the peace and quiet of their own homes. The evidence suggests this may well be right. Researchers from Stanford University studied two groups of workers, half at home and half at the office, and found the productivity of the home group shot up by 13 percent.

The Stanford researchers concluded: “our advice is that firms – at the very least – ought to be open to employees working from home occasionally, to allow them to focus on individual projects and tasks”.

Achieving work/life balance

When PwC undertook a massive survey of 18-35 year olds in the workforce they found two-thirds of young workers wanted the flexibility to work from home at least some of time. Equally interesting, almost half wanted the option to vary their hours to work late into the evening if it meant flexibility across the day.

Home workers, of course, already have such flexibility. They can take two hours off to collect children from school in the middle of the afternoon and then work until late in the evening, for example.

Pioneers of remote working are seeing the benefits, they say. JetBlue – a home working leader in the US – has proclaimed their policy a success because it “helped us gain access to educated, high-ability mothers who wanted flexibility in their jobs… overall this policy has improved the quality of the workforce”.

Of course, one of the benefits of running our own business has been the opportunity to experiment with innovative ways of working that are both as productive and as conducive to wellbeing as possible. We’ve already blogged about our experiment with limitless holiday, and we’re looking at ways in which we can facilitate flexible working.

Is your commute grinding you down? We are working with a number of clients who really understand the value of offering more flexibility than ever before. Check out our jobs page and follow @3searchtweet or get in touch to discuss our current jobs.