WORKING FROM home doesn't work. It blocks career progression - and keeps people on lower rates of pay, say researchers. They also found that far from improving family life it can damage relationships because people are unable to separate work and family stresses.
Studies suggest that by 2004 two million people in Britain, 10 per cent of the working population, will be based at home, employed or self-employed. Sociologists say more flexible working will improve the quality of life for thousands of employees, with parents being able to combine childcare with earning a living.
But the opposite is true, says Dr Susan Baines of the Department of Social Policy at the University of Newcastle, whose study is published by the Economic and Social Research Council.
"If home-based employment becomes more widespread the results may not only be harsh for many individuals but damaging to the overall quality of working life," she says. "This research highlights the many losses associated with these working practices even for relatively privileged people who have education, experience, skills and work which is intrinsically satisfying."
Her findings are based on questionnaire responses and one-to-one interviews with 200 home-based people who work in media-related business.
The findings show even the most positive accounts of working from home never included personal or professional development or opportunities to pass on skills and experience to younger people. Four out of 10 said they found it difficult to keep family and business separate. Although telecommuters do not need to travel to work, one in five still said that long hours put a strain on family life.
Self-employed men who worked at home were particularly at risk. "Men in the study were particularly threatened by the loss of security status and sociability associated with older working practices," she says. …