The building blocks of a flexible working life. Home based businesses grows rapidly in the UK.

Writing as someone who works from home, I find it difficult to imagine journeying to an office every single day of the working week; although I do recognise the value of the office as a place to get things done.

Recent research from Lloyds Bank suggests that, increasingly people are establishing themselves as home-based workers. Indeed, there are 5.9 million businesses operating from people’s homes in the UK, with 27% established in the last year. These businesses are wide and varied.

So what is driving this trend? The recession may be one causation. Perhaps people are also tired of an unrelenting cycle of boom and bust; the sense of insecurity and a lack of control over one’s destiny. At least with our own businesses we can generally see the writing on the wall?

Family must also play a role. For the majority of families, the days of the single breadwinner couple are largely gone. ‘Making ends meet’, often demands two incomes coming into the house. Working from home also gives significantly greater flexibility: for example, more time for childcare coupled with a work cycle that suits family needs. In my case, I work early and late hours. This allows me to spend more time with my children.

For me flexible working is a key consideration. Moreover, I have a breadth of skills and thus prefer not to become stuck in a rut. This enables me to work with a number of companies and organisations, carve out my own niche; and in so doing develop in ways I may choose. Indeed, I believe that by working for myself my skills have developed in recent years in ways which enable me to assist a wider range of people and organisations .

One down side of working from home tends to be the lack of immediate colliegialty. Like others who work from home, occasionally I miss the camaraderie of the centralised workplace. As I don’t have a small army of colleagues to fall back on to help me find solutions to problems, I have to be self-relient and resourceful – However, to a large degree, I find that social media is the solution to any isolation which arises as a consequence of working from home. For example, because of the connections I have established across social media channels, I can bid for projects with clients today as a mini-enterprise. Indeed, social media has been a significant and major enabler of my flexible home working landscape.

Working from home should also do its bit for the environment shouldn’t it? Accordingly, I don’t burn fuel driving to a central workplace in order to sit at a desk 50 miles away anymore. I am not wearing through tyres, pumping fumes into the atmosphere or consuming my percentage take of the office air conditioning units output?

But what of motivation? I know plenty who cannot motivate themselves to work from home. The lure of just another half-hour of daytime TV, an opportunity to pop to the local cafe all add up, and can infringe on time. Distraction activities have not become a problem for me. However, if thinking of becoming a homeworker, one should consider the issue of daily motivation? A routine is certainly vital. Having the space to work away from the day to day interruptions of family activity is also important.

All of this is not to negate the importance of the office or other central workplace. We need to get together. We need to be social. We need to see the ‘whites of peoples’ eyes’ from time to time. We need the flip chart, the cooler chats and the intrigue that goes with them. Social interaction is, after all, a part of being human. Thus, we cannot go through life simply communicating digitally.

I do see an opportunity opening up, that of the flexible workspace, more flexible home / living spaces and improvements on technologies that help us all work together. As broadband accelerates, life moves ever more rapidly towards ‘the cloud’, the building blocks of a more flexible working life are slotting into place.

For those of us who work in the knowledge economy, I feel working from home is increasingly the way we will be working. The daily hack down the motorway, overcrowded trains, the costs to the economy and the environment of overcrowded roads, the resultant lost productivity all seem to me to be coming something of an anachronism.

Of course for certain professions – doctors, nurses, fire persons, mechanics, builders and so on – this is never going to be the way. But I do believe that the current growth in people working from home is positive; not least for those who are important to us, our families.

What are your views?

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