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Working from home: freedom requires self-discipline

Self-discipline by members of staff, a boss with good managerial skills, and a suitable job-type are all preconditions for the home office concept to work effectively. Driven by the prospect of cost-savings, firms have been opting for this type of work arrangement for their employees.

Working from home is suitable for people who prefer a high degree of flexibility.(Source: SME - Štefan Trško )

Self-discipline by members of staff, a boss with good managerial skills, and a suitable job-type are all preconditions for the home office concept to work effectively. Driven by the prospect of cost-savings, firms have been opting for this type of work arrangement for their employees.

Nevertheless, home working, if pursued over a period of years, does have its downsides, including the isolation of employees who are excluded from workplace discourse and who can lose certain types of working habits and the incentive to learn new things, human resources professionals suggest.
“The problem of the home office has long been a subject of discussion,” Peter Ulbrík, director of AuJob personnel and education services, told The Slovak Spectator. “The working environment, of course depending on its quality, works as a significant motivating factor and often is a source of creativity and increased working effectiveness.”

However, Ulbrik adds that the personality of the employee must also be taken into account.

“Impulses that positively impact one employee might not have any effect at all on another, or might have a completely contrary effect on other members of the team.”

According to Peter Pelegrim, area manager of Manpower, having employees working from home brings new challenges for managers when it comes to organisation of labour, in terms of assignment of tasks, evaluation and control.

“Often this type of work fails due to managers who are unable to manage their subordinates over a distance,” Pelegrim told The Slovak Spectator. “There are, of course, professions which cannot be performed from home because they demand permanent contact with customers.”

Working from home is mainly used for positions that require individual creative activities; it is very well suited to office positions as well as to lighter manual work if such work can be performed away from company premises, said Pelegrim.

Ulbrik said that working within a home office is a good option in positions that are characterised by significant employee autonomy in terms of working schedule and where, at the same time, remuneration is based on results.

“This working method is suitable mainly for individuals preferring a high degree of independence and flexibility with a lower personal need for social interaction and stimulation from the working environment,” Ulbrik said. “Such positions are mainly within the areas of trade, technology or IT development, where this method is mostly positively perceived on the part of employees as well as employers.”

Professions like writer, composer, translator, masseur, private teacher and some types of journalistic work have increasingly come to be performed from home, following technological developments like computerisation, the use of fax machines and, more recently, the spread of the internet. Ever more powerful computers and faster internet connection speeds have also made it possible for graphic designers, financial advisers, stockbrokers, PR managers and even website operators to work from home.

For employers, advantages lie in savings from energy and rental costs, but the environmental burden is not necessarily lessened since employees working from home still consume energy and produce waste, for example.

In Slovakia, it is either small, family-type companies or big, well-established multinational concerns that enable their employees to work, at least partially, from home, according to the financial daily Hospodárske Noviny. The daily notes that in the IT sector, for example, as much as 40 percent of work is done from home. Abroad, some companies use this approach to maintain contacts with employees on parental leave by allowing them to perform part-time jobs from home.

Deloitte has found a specific solution for partial home working in the United Kingdom – the so-called “hotel system”, Hospodárske Noviny wrote. This enables the company to reduce office capacity by 30 percent by allowing employees to book a desk in the office in advance, online. Deloitte, which employs auditors who often work at clients’ offices, can thus save on rental and energy costs.

“Home work is attractive for many companies if they want to save costs,” Ján Uriga, a consultancy manager at Deloitte, told the Sme daily, adding that despite this, his company normally offers this option as a kind of benefit for only one day a week, rather than as a general rule.

“Slovak culture is more about authority and the need to be supervised. This stereotype has changed slightly, but it might never completely disappear,” he concluded

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