I have taken the children to school. I am back home and have made my coffee and now I am ready to work – yet I am not self-employed. In fact I work for a large insurance company. Does this sound familiar?

If not then get used to it! This is the way of the future. It is now possible to work from home with nothing more than a secure internet connection. I can manage my own time, tele-conference for meetings and do all the computer-based work that I need to do. I never need to go to work again.

So what are the issues?

Security

A historical problem with homeworking has been security – especially in remote locations. This relates to both physical security as well as security of any data as any compromise could cause harm or reputational damage to the organisation and / or result in hefty penalties. There needs to be a focus on what industry experts call C.I.A.

Confidentiality – data will not be shared with other parties beyond whom it should be shared.

Integrity – data will not be compromised, or damaged in any way.

Availability – data needs to be available in a timely manner to those who need it.

A secure connection with a trusted employee resolves many of these issues alongside technology that enables remote wipe of hard drives if a device is compromised. If a good password management policy is in place and a defined reporting process – in the case of theft – is followed, a device can be as secure as it is in a traditional office environment.

Motivation

Without a team leader breathing down their necks some employees find it difficult to be motivated. Late starts, constant coffee breaks or the draw of Facebook or the television can all be factors that distract workers and stop them from working effectively. However the opposite is also possible – because there is no defining line between the office and home some employees could be tempted to work extra hours.

Communication / Interaction with other team members.

Being at home removes employees from the immediate environment of their colleagues and consequently much of their support network can be removed or weakened. You cannot just ask the person at the next workstation to help if you have a problem. It is more difficult to build relationships and you may feel estranged from the organisation you work for. Perceived isolation often leads to disengagement and low morale.

So why work from home?

If you get homeworking right it can be liberating. You have more control and can pro-actively create a good work-life balance. Your time becomes more efficient as you are not losing it travelling to and from the office. This could save 5 hours a week if you spend 30 minutes travelling in each direction every day – not to mention saving on fuel costs! This can be time for your family and you can re-prioritise things that you wish to change. You can save money – eating at home is much cheaper than those tempting sandwiches that you can buy from vendors who come to the office.

Hot-desking.

Alternatively you could try hot-desking – where you work from home for part of the week and in the office for the rest of it. This also enables the organisation to manage workstations more effectively in that a workstation is no longer yours, but is managed on the basis of need. If five employees work from home one day a week the organisation only needs four workstations in the office to facilitate them.

So maybe homeworking is for you – or at least hot-desking to give you a taste of what it is like to be a homeworker.

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Pre-Reading

Look at the picture above the main text of a typical corporate office. Do you like this kind of office environment? Would you / Do you like working in this kind of place?  Why (not)?

Comprehension

Answer the following questions. All the phrases have been underlined in the text to help you find them.

1. What is a remote location?

2. What is meant by physical security when referring to homeworking?

3. What does compromise mean in this context?

4. What is meant by reputational damage?

5. What is a hefty penalty?

6. What is meant by in a timely manner?

7. What is meant by remote wipe?

8. Explain the phrase breathing down their necks.

9. What is meant by there is no defining line between the office and home?

10. In the phrase the draw of Facebook or the television what does the verb draw mean?

11. What does estranged mean?

12. What is perceived isolation?

Speaking *

1. Would you like to try homeworking or hot-desking? Why (not)?

2. Many corporations use open plan offices. What are the alternatives? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of office set up?

3. How can you improve the office environment where you work?

4. Concerning security what is best practice when managing passwords?

5. A support network is important, as is building relationships. How can this be achieved when homeworking?

6. Hot-desking means that any workstation is no longer yours alone. What are the advantages and disadvantages of not having your own dedicated workstation? Would you like to work on a communal workstation?

7. If you did not need to travel to work every day how much time would you save each week and how would you use it?

* You need to prepare these questions for conversation during your next online / face-to-face session with your tutor.