By February 9, 2011 Read More →

Are home workers slackers?

Are home workers slackers?Thanks to Emma Jones for tweeting me in the direction of a bizarre article about home working in The Daily Telegraph headlined ‘8pc of home workers do business in their pyjamas’.

Harry Wallop appears to have used a survey by Nectar Business on which to hang an outdated prejudice that people working from home are in fact siting on their sofas, drinking tea and watching Countdown. The first time I read it I could barely take it in for wondering whether this was some kind of joke. But no, April 1 is still a long way off. My second thought was that some jotted notes that might or might not have had the makings of a proper article had somehow been published inadvertently.

The piece bears no resemblance to my daily routine or that of any home worker I’ve ever come across. I would dismiss it as the ramblings of someone frighteningly out of touch with the way work is changing, but then Marisol of Caradiaz pointed out that this is the kind of thing that makes some employers refuse to consider home working for their staff. Which is much more worrying.

The old pyjamas and watching TV story seems to get trotted out regularly at the slightest mention of home working. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a party of national journalists along to The BIG Jelly and expose them to some alternative viewpoints? Do you think it’s important to ditch this old-fashioned thinking and is there anything home workers can do about it?

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16 Comments on "Are home workers slackers?"

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  1. Sharon says:

    Bloomin’ heck, the only time I have worked in my PJs was when I was ill – read that Wallop – ill, and stayed snuggled and warm while I carried on working. Generally I am in the office as soon as the kids leave for school – 8.40am, dressed and ready for anything.

    I may timeshift my work to fit around my life but I bet I work just as hard if not harder than when I worked the 9 to 5 grind.

    Grrr – can you tell I am cross Judy?

    • judy says:

      It’s infuriating, isn’t it? As someone tweeted, if you’re self-employed, no work equals no pay. And if you work for someone else and watch TV all day, you’ll soon be out of a job.

  2. I read the article in surprise as well, it certainly doesn’t reflect the working practices of any home workers that I know.

    I am not employed, I am self employed and work from home but I would say that I actually work harder now than I ever did when employed. I certainly put in more hours than I ever did before, but have the flexibility to work around things should I wish.

    I don’t work in my PJ’s, I treat my work as seriously as I did when I was employed.

    As an advocate of home working and the use of cloud technology I would be very saddened if this article prompted employers to change their mind and disallow home working. I feel that a lot of employers are missing out as home workers can be more productive, and allowing home working would certainly help alleviate the issues they faced during the recent harsh weather where people struggled to get into work.

    I am appalled that these stereotypes still exist and am curious who actually was invited to participate in this Nectar survey, perhaps they asked the wrong people to take part hence this poor piece of journalism.

    • judy says:

      That’s a good point, Helen – the more people are geared up and used to home working, the better the economy can run in an emergency. It’s people who are suddenly told to stay and ‘work’ at home with no preparation who will be distracted by TV etc.

  3. Rosie Smart says:

    I would like to say, I am guilty as charged…..well, at least I was at 6 this morning when I caught up with some work emails before the kids got up. However, that is the extent of my slovenly behaviour and this kind of flexibility is a perk of working from home. You wouldn’t get emails from someone working in an office at that time in the morning. I then got dressed, as I do every morning, and took my daughter to school before continuing my working day. I do have some meetings tomorrow though. Wonder how it would go down if I turned up in my leopard print jammies!!! Article is utter tosh!!!!!!!!

  4. judy says:

    There you are – typical home working slacker behaviour, just like Sharon, working long before breakfast and during illness. Shocking.
    (Actually those PJ’s sound rather fetching, Rosie. Could be dressed up with some power accessories and there’d be no stopping you).

  5. Ali Davies says:

    I think the problem is that the focus is on “how” people work as opposed to productivity and output. Who cares if folk are working in their PJ’s if they are doing a good job, are productive and delivering results.

    I run a home business. Most of the time I am as productive as I was during my corporate years. I work from my home office or a coffee shop, hotel lobby and even outdoors in the summer. None of this makes me less productive, a slacker or not deliver results.

    Most of the time I am spruced up and business like in my appearance even when I don’t have meetings and am on my own. But sometimes I am not – like now – It is early morning, I am sat in my PJ’s in bed getting some work done being quiet so I don’t wake my son.

    I am a hard working business owner. “How” I work isn’t important. What is important is that I am delivering results and my business is performing.

    As I mentioned at the start, I firmly believe folk need to stop focusing on “how” and focus on outcome, results and productivity. For example, more hours doesn’t equal more results. It is time for this old fashioned, misguided, thinking to be eradicated.

    Maybe as a group we should challenge this journalist to write an article showing the other side of the coin. The side of the coin most home business would recognise as their truth.

  6. Caradiaz says:

    When it comes to working from home, there is a fundamental difference between people who run their own businesses and people who work for someone else.

    When you run your own business, you make up your own rules and, as long as the job gets done, it doesn’t matter where you do it from, the number or hours you spend at your desk or what you are wearing. And you will ensure that the job definitely gets down because, as it is you own business, no work means no income.

    However, when you work full-time for someone else, you are likely to be on a fixed salary, regardless of whether the company does better or worse from one month to the next, and your employer may be inclined to think that you are not going to the take job so seriously if you don’t do it from the company’s premises.

    • judy says:

      That’s true, and on this site we tend to hear from people who have their own businesses. We’d also like to hear from you if you are employed and work from home, or if you’d like to work from home but have encountered resistance.

  7. I too was exasperated by Mr. Wallop’s sweeping generalisation and finger pointing at those of us who work from home. There is a fundamental difference between those of us who run our business’ from home and those who are allowed to work from home occasionally. I have indeed seen my Brother-in-law ( a senior bank manager) working from home from 0500 in PJ’s – they are passable though as they are pinstriped! I like many of the other people who have commented take my business very seriously and although I no longer don my pin-striped suit any longer I do treat my day as I would if I was going to work in an office. Perhaps Mr. Wallop might do a piece on the lack of proper business attire in many companies including the one’s I have worked for? I always wore a suit to work, except on ‘dress-down’ Friday. Is it acceptable to wear ripped jeans and a football shirt to work when you are conversing with senior individuals in FTSE companies? I know of many people who work from home and are employed who tweet about Jeremy Kyle and boast about not getting dressed all day and who give a cursory glance at emails on their ‘Crackberry’ three times a day! Now where’s my hoodie – i’m freezing !

    • judy says:

      Aha, it seems from all the tweets and comments I’ve received that this is the very crux of the matter. The reputation of all home workers is somehow confused with a minority of office-based employees who occasionally work from home and see it as a bit of a lark.
      If your income depends on you being organised, productive and looking the biz, then that’s what you’ll be.
      Anita-Clare, we still haven’t seen that infamous hoodie! It’s a bit nippy today, so I’m wrapped in my grey fleece blanket. I don’t know anyone who could actually afford to keep the heating on high enough to wear pyjamas all day!

  8. Was the article actually written by someone who works from home? I find it hard to believe that a man sits at home in a suit and tie – hilarious.

    Our whole working culture has changed and for many home workers including myself, it is perceived that as we are based at home we are very handy to have around just to take in parcels, pop out for errands as and when and I even have to correct my husband on many occasions who says “Mel doesn’t work”!! On the occasion he did work from home he said how he was amazed that I sat at my desk, in my office ALL DAY and worked! Ahem….

    I love working from home, but like those above I work harder and longer hours than I ever did during my corporate life and every day since I started WFH I get up, get dressed and start work as if I had left the house. Just because that helps me make that mental switch that I am in word mode, and if I don’t get dressed you can guarantee that someone will ring the doorbell! I work a longer day as I don’t have to commute anywhere so that is at least an extra 1-2 hours per day over and above office workers.

    Right 12.30pm my lunchtime and time for Loose Women.

  9. judy says:

    Ah, Melanie, I know someone else who organises working from home so she can tune in to that! I meant to listen to Woman’s Hour, which is running a Women in Business feature, but got engrossed and missed it. Thank goodness for Listen Again.

    I’ve just been talking to a new home worker who is enjoying the freedom to mix work and other activities during her previously office-bound day. I suspect the slurs may often be motivated by envy that we appear to be having a good time as well as getting lots done!

  10. Gary says:

    My employer allows their employees to work from home one or two days a week – they’re pretty flexible and understanding. While it is tempting to watch a bit of telly, the whole point of working from home is to not have the daily office distractions so stuff gets done. Invariably the hours worked at home is usually more because there is a genuine reason to work from home. Without the distractions productivity actually increases. However, on balance, I’m sure there’s the odd “skive” that occurs (ie popping out to the local shops), but I think trusting your employees to get work done in the long-run can only be better for the general healthiness of the employer/employee relationship. It definitely works for me – I even find myself working from home in the evenings because I actually enjoy what I do.

    I would however be skeptical of people who hate their jobs and want to work from home… sounds like a recipe for disaster.

  11. judy says:

    Hi Gary, it sounds like you have pleasantly enlightened employers. I think the difficulty is often that managers struggle with the idea of looking at results produced rather than hours present in the office. I wouldn’t regard popping out to the shops as skiving as long as the work done was of a good quality and delivered within the agreed time. As you say, trust is vital – it’s really trusting employees to be their own boss and manage their own time.
    Great to hear how much you enjoy your work – what do you do?

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