Working from home seems like a great way to balance job and life demands, but it can be fraught with pitfalls, according to research released by IBM and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
A survey of 350 remote workers across Europe found that without appropriate management support, technologies, skills and performance measures, they can end up feeling alienated, underappreciated and mistrusted, even though they may work harder than their office-based colleagues. The same can apply to employees who spend a significant amount of time working away from the office.
“If mobile working is to realise its full potential, management support, training and the opportunity to network are essential,” says Mary Sue Rogers, global leader for IBM Business Consulting Services’ human capital management practice.
According to the report 44% of respondents cited collaboration as their biggest concern.
“The greatest challenge is to co-ordinate work with other mobile workers and meet the deadlines for common tasks,” said one.
More than 40% said that they felt disadvantaged because they could not tap into ‘water-cooler’ conversations and other informal networks. Without access to this social capital, respondents said they are not hearing about company developments and opportunities.
Some mobile employees also appear to face an uphill battle to establish credibility in their organisations. Almost 40% of those surveyed felt that their office-based colleagues believed that mobile workers were not pulling their own weight. This was most pronounced in the UK, where one respondent detected ‘suspicion’ among office-based workers towards mobile employees.
However, the report found that in a lot of cases mobile workers may well toil harder than their deskbound cohorts: 61% of respondents said that when working from home, it can be difficult to switch off from work, muddling the work-life balance they were seeking. Many described a compelling need to check for messages in the evenings and at weekends, for fear of missing something important.
However, most respondents said that despite these problems they did not feel deprived of job promotions