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Original article

Homeworking and work-life balance:


does it add to quality of life?
Travail domicile et quilibre travail-vie quotidienne :
est-ce un plus pour la qualit de vie ?
J. Moore
1
Psychology Section, School of Social Sciences and Law, University of Teesside, Middlesbrough TS1 3BA, UK
Received 20 May 2004; received in revised form 25 November 2004; accepted 20 February 2005
Abstract
Worklife balance has recently emerged as part of a wider focus on quality of life issues. This paper adopts a personal well-being approach to
the quality of life suggesting that a positive relation between self and place is essential to well being. The aim of this paper is to examine the
potential contribution of homeworking to the quality of life. This paper draws from a recent study of homeworkers, funded by the ESRC. Inter-
views and questionnaire data are presented, with 123 homeworkers and 371 women working in the North East. The paper concludes by suggest-
ing the benefits of flexible working are equally experienced and are differentiated by gender and type of work.
2006 Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.
Rsum
Lquilibre entre le travail et la vie prive est apparu rcemment comme un aspect particulier de la qualit de vie. Cet article adopte une
approche de la qualit de vie centre sur le bien-tre individuel, suggrant quune relation positive entre le soi et le lieu de vie est essentielle pour
le bien-tre de lindividu (Lynch, 1981; Grayson and Young, 1994; Moore, 2000b). Lobjectif de ce travail est dexaminer les apports du travail
domicile la qualit de vie de lindividu. Lanalyse est fonde sur une rcente recherche auprs des personnes travaillant leur domicile finance
par le ERSC. Les rsultats sont issus de questionnaires et dentretiens auprs de 123 hommes et 371 femmes travaillant domicile dans le nord-
est de lAngleterre. Les conclusions suggrent que les avantages du travail la carte est peru de la mme manire par lensemble de lchantil-
lon, tout en tant diffrenci par sexe et par type de travail.
2006 Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Home; Worklife balance; Well-being; Working from home; Health
Mots cls : Chez soi ; quilibre travail et vie prive ; Bien-tre ; Tltravail ; Sant
1. Introduction
The current debates on the balance between work and fa-
mily life have been strengthened by policy initiatives adopted
in the UK and across the EU (DTI, 2002). No longer is the
focus on an individuals personal quest for a balanced life,
but rather a societal effort to instill broad-based support for a
workforce which makes time for family, and a workplace that
facilitates this. From an economic perspective, the wave of fa-
mily-friendly policies have at their heart, a drive to increase
employment retention, cut office costs and reduce stress in
the workplace, as well as encourage families to care for their
own. However, this trend also rides on a more humane accep-
tance each life has to be balanced between work and home
responsibilities for maximum harmony. Worklife balance has
http://france.elsevier.com/direct/ERAP/
Revue europenne de psychologie applique 56 (2006) 513
E-mail address: j.m.moore@tees.ac.uk (J. Moore).
1
Dr. Jeanne Moore is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of
Teesside in the UK.
She is a Chartered Psychologist and Secretary of the International Association
for People-Environment Studies
1162-9088/$ - see front matter 2006 Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.erap.2005.02.013
been debated as part of the wider focus on quality of life is-
sues. This mysterious, apparently immeasurable balance is
rarely defined or clarified (Crosbie and Moore, 2004).
One of the flexible initiatives that have been promoted as
part of a range of family-friendly policies is homeworking.
Although not new, it is increasingly offered to workers as part
of their working schedule, with some being encouraged to
work from home one day a week, to those who have been
relocated to their homes. This paper will examine homework-
ing as part of a wider move to improve the worklife balance
and quality of life through an examination of data from a recent
ESRC study.
1.1. Worklife balance and homeworking
There has been a recent policy debate on worklife balance,
replacing earlier discourses surrounding family friendly poli-
cies (Bryson et al., 2000; Duncan, 2002; Hartley, 2002). Ac-
cording to the DTI, regardless of age, race or gender, every-
one can find a rhythm to help them combine work with their
other responsibilities or aspirations, and the work life balance
involves adjusting working patterns in ways which allow peo-
ple to achieve this rhythm (DTI, 2002).
Worklife balance has been interpreted as a range of flexible
working patterns, including part-time work, job sharing, time
off in lieu and staggered hours which can help people balance
their work and home commitments (DTI 2001a, 2002). Home-
working is presented positively in these documents, despite ac-
knowledging the potential for isolation. This forms part of a
wider trend in which homeworking is presented as the answer
to the stresses of working life; that being at home, in itself, can
counter the stressors of working life and positively tip the
worklife balance. Lewis et al. (2003) have argued that work
life balance has been constructed as a personal problem in
which an individual has to co-ordinate the different aspects of
their personal life. But they argue that these decisions are not
just based on individual choices, they are related to social and
societal values and assumptions. They suggest the term inte-
gration of paid work with the rest of life instead of work life
balance to counter this emphasis.
The current policy view endorses the idea that the opportu-
nity to work at home can help reconcile work and home obli-
gations. This has been supported to some extent by research
(Aldrich, 1982; Bulos and Chaker, 1991; Carsky et al., 1991;
Duxbury et al., 1998; Galinsky et al., 1993; Hill et al., 1996;
Hutchinson and Brewster, 1994; Mahfood, 1992; Mirchandani,
1998; Qvortrup, 1992; Sullivan and Lewis, 2001). There are
many assumptions which have taken hold as part of this pre-
vailing view. Most significantly there is a benign view of home
as a positive and rewarding part of the balance, providing a
wholesome counterpoint to the more negative workplace. This
is however an assumption worth challenging. There has been
other work suggesting that there are potential difficulties and
tensions that come with this practice (Ahrentzen, 1992; Gur-
stein, 1991; Gurstein, 2001; Haddon, 1998). Homeworking
can increase the permeability of the boundary between work
and family domains, causing attempts to juggle work and fa-
mily schedules to become more difficult (Crossen, 1990; Foe-
gen, 1993; Olson and Primps, 1984). Sullivan (2000) reported
that homeworkers found similar levels of workfamily conflict
to on-site workers and that more negatively, work can intrude
into home and family life.
Another element to challenging the benign role, equitable
and achievable that home plays in relation to worklife bal-
ance, is the absence of gender in ongoing debates. Clearly
worklife balance has been a reality for women even before
the industrial revolution. The term has evolved to be gender
neutral in recent years. However, womens experience of bal-
ancing work and family life is shaped by their over-riding re-
sponsibility for caring for children and domestic work. There is
little doubt that women bear the brunt of family responsibilities
and this has had a noted effect on womens careers and pro-
gression in the labor market. (Cabinet Office, 2001; Fagan and
Burchell, 2002; Hogarth et al., 2001; Opportunity Now, 2000;
Walby and Olsen, 2002). Hogarth et al. (2001) found that
39.1% felt that womens commitments to care for others had
prevented them from getting work or progressing in work. In
the UK, with expensive childcare and inflexible full-time work,
women have sought out part-time, flexible working hours
(Hakim, 1997; Rubery et al., 1999). While this can help wo-
men personally, it does little to change the culture of full-time
work. Kodz et al. (2002) identified key aspects of a more flex-
ible approach as including the ability to vary their working
hours, the flexibility to work from home when necessary or
being able to come into work later or leave earlier after work-
ing long hours.
Managerial and professional women find the worklife bal-
ance problematic, and experience stress, because their partners,
if they have them, are more likely to be working full-time. A
recent study found that 58% of men working full-time and 72%
of women working full-time agreed that there are so many
things to do at home, I often run out of time before I get them
all done and women were more likely to report stress at work
(69% as compared to 64% of men); lower levels of worklife
stress were reported by routine and manual respondents
(Crompton and Brockmann, 2003). Another study reported that
47% find it easy to separate their working life from their home
life but more than 56% feel that separation is important.
(Facilities Innovation, 2003).
In a recent ESF funded study of womens working lives in
the North East of England, juggling work and home was some-
thing many women were finding a challenge (Green et al.,
2003). 22% of women worked on average 30 hours or under
per week, the majority worked between 31 and 40 hours. Wo-
men often mentioned the need to consider the needs of their
children and partners in relation to their working lives. Their
choices and patterns of work were shaped by childcare and
their partners employment, location, transport among other
things. Women talked about feeling guilty when they were at
work and how home can be a barrier to work. A third of wo-
men wanted to change their working hours. This was even
higher, 42%, for the sample as a whole. Almost a quarter of
women (23.5%) felt that lack of flexible working hours had
been a barrier to their employment or progression. Others men-
J. Moore / Revue europenne de psychologie applique 56 (2006) 513 6
tioned the balance they were seeking between the right job and
progression, their children and childcare, and having time as a
family. Women generally did not view work in isolation, but
made employment choices in the context of wider roles and
responsibilities (Green et al., 2003).
Drawing from psychological frameworks of home experi-
ence developed in previous work, this study will examine
homeworking from an environmental psychological perspec-
tive (c.f. Bonnes and Secchiaroli, 1995; Canter, 1977; Gifford,
2002; Moore, 1998; Sixsmith, 1986). Such an approach un-
iquely examines the multivariate relationship between people
and the physical, social, cultural and personal home and work,
rather than on the impact of one on the other. The way home-
working is experienced is therefore placed within its social,
physical and cultural context. The tensions and difference with-
in this experience are as important as the positive experiences
and consensus (Moore, 2000a). Environmental psychology is
uniquely placed to provide some theoretical and practical illu-
minations on the relationship between home and work. Increas-
ingly these activities are not place-bound. Work is the new
home, with UK workers spending the longest hours working
in Europe and home is the new workplace with rising numbers
of homeworkers (Felstead and Jewson, 2000). This is predicted
to rise to at least a third of the workforce by 2006 (Henley
Centre, 1998).
1.2. Quality of life
Quality of life indicators are used across the developed
world to assess the personal, social and physical environment
in which people are living. In the UK, the Audit Commission
co-ordinates the voluntary collection of data from local autho-
rities which covers economic, social and environmental well-
being (Audit Commission, 2003). These include perceptions of
crime, housing quality and noise pollution among others. Qual-
ity of life is most often used in a health context. However, it
has a more general use. Beyond crude aggregates, quality of
life has individual meaning as much subjective as objective.
Quality of life refers to subjective and objective aspects of
well-being and satisfaction with life (Interdisciplinary Centre
for Quality of Life, 2000). It is a term with many potential
interpretations. Ambiguous, it can refer to how well an indivi-
duals life is going, but also capturing the quality of living con-
ditions, including environment and culture. (Megone, 1990, p.
28). In this sense, there are tangible environmental factors
which can shape quality of life but these are filtered through
an individuals goals and purposes (Canter, 1983). In other
words, there can be no fixed checklist of factors or conditions
applicable for everyone but rather that all environments can
only be understood through their interaction over time with
particular individuals. At root, quality of life is about a sense
of well-being (Grayson and Young, 1994). This paper adopts a
personal well-being approach suggesting that a positive rela-
tion between self and place is essential to well being (Grayson
and Young, 1994; Lynch, 1981; Moore, 2000b). The other fac-
tor to consider is that quality of life may not be equitable with-
in the family as it may be others who benefit from having a
homeworker at home. For example, the domestic chores may
be carried out as part of spending more time at home. There-
fore, quality of life has to be treated as subjective, time and
context dependent. For this paper, quality of life is subjectively
assessed in terms of well-being but also viewed as a product of
the balance between home and work.
The overall aim of this paper is to explore the experience of
homeworking and to identify which what factors contribute to
a greater worklife balance, sense of well-being and quality of
life. To do so, it needs to seek out inequalities and differences
in the homeworking experience as well as commonalities.
2. Method
This paper presents results from a study funded by the Eco-
nomic and Social Research Council in the UK, which explored
the experience of homeworking in the North of England and
Wales. The main focus of the homeworking research was on
the potential impacts of homeworking on home and family life.
This ESRC study used semi-structured interviews, focus
groups and a questionnaire. This triangulated approach (Jick,
1983) strengthens the findings presented here as Knafl and
Breitmayer (1989) have argued that multiple data collection
techniques contribute to the completeness function of triangu-
lation by providing explanatory insights about data from vary-
ing sources (pp. 2345). However this is not to suggest that
there is one fixed homeworking reality, but rather that there
are strong core themes in this experience shaped by a variety
of factors. In total 123 homeworkers took part in this research.
45 homeworkers were interviewed in person, and additional 16
took part in focus groups discussions and a further 62 com-
pleted a postal questionnaire. This mixed methodology pro-
duced a small but rich data set.
The interview sample was selected purposefully to reflect a
wide range of homeworking experience in the North of Eng-
land and Wales and is therefore not fully representative of
homeworkers nationally. It was stratified by profession and
gender, targeting homeworkers in the North of England
(82%) and Wales (18%), living with others and working from
home for at least 20 hours a week for at least a year. Three
types of workers were targeted and broadly defined as: 36%
(22) professional/managerial workers; 33% (20) skilled (e.g.
craft, programming); 10% (6) semi-skilled (sewing) and 21%
(13) unskilled (e.g. assembly).
2
While every effort was made to
encourage men to take part in the research the numbers of men
(17) and women (44) offer further evidence that there are more
women than men working from home. Over half (54%: 33) had
children aged 18 or under at home. 8% (5) had disabilities
which prevented them working outside the home. The inter-
view schedule focused on the experience of working from
home and its impact on home and family life. It explored their
reasons for homeworking and expectations for the future. The
interview lasted an hour on average and was normally con-
2
The focus on each of these types is supported by the findings of Phizack-
lea and Wolkowitz (1995) who demonstrated the diversity of experience be-
tween low-skilled and high-skilled homework.
J. Moore / Revue europenne de psychologie applique 56 (2006) 513 7
ducted in the interviewees home. The interview material was
analyzed thematically. NUDIST software was used. In order to
assess the significance of a particular category the greater num-
ber of participants quotes coded to that category was used as a
general indication of general salience.
The questionnaire was developed from a pilot version. The
General Health Questionnaire (GHQ12) and the Work Locus of
Control Scale (Spector, 1988) were added. The GHQ assesses
levels of well being (Goldberg, 1978) and detects minor psy-
chiatric disorders and high stress levels. The GHQ-12 has been
used in a variety of occupational and community settings as a
screening measure for psychological ill-health (see Banks et
al., 1980). The GHQ-12 asks respondents to report how they
felt recently on a range of variables, including self-esteem, an-
xiety and depression, on a four-point scale, using endpoints of
better than usual to much less than usual. A sample item is,
Have you recently been able to concentrate on whatever
youre doing? Two methods of scoring the GHQ-12 are pos-
sible, the binary method and the Likert method. The Likert
method was utilized in this study. The Likert method scores
the four-point scale as 0-12-3, such that higher scores corre-
spond to increasing stress and ill-health (range = 036).
In total 330 questionnaires were sent to homeworkers and
messages placed with homeworking organizations mailing lists
and Internet based advertisements. The overall response rate
was 19% but there was considerable variation. 80% of the
questionnaires sent out to those who responded to online ad-
verts were returned while 10% sent out by homeworking orga-
nizations were returned. The data was analyzed descriptively,
correlated with additional inferential tests and multivariate ana-
lyses to explore scaled responses. The questionnaire sample
consisted of 62 homeworkers from across the UK: 34% of
whom were male and 65% female. 66% of the sample was
aged between 30 and 50. 54% (34) of the sample worked in
broadly traditional occupations and 46% (28) in professional
occupations
3
. 55% were traditional homeworkers, of whom,
85% were female. Only 39% of the professional homeworkers
were female. 29% (18) of those who filled in the questionnaire
were from the Northeast, 38% (24) from the South, 19% (12)
from the Midlands, 1% (4) from Scotland and 1% (4) from
Wales.
Similar results were produced from the interviews and ques-
tionnaire data for the most part. However, where these diverge,
these will be highlighted and examined.
3. Results
3.1. Homeworking, stress and well-being
Stress is defined as a particular relationship between the
person and the environment that is appraised by the individual
as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering
his or her well-being (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984, p. 19 cited
in Tse et al., 2004). When applied to different occupations and
occupational settings, it is evident how important the working
environment can be to affect psychological health. The General
Health Questionnaire revealed average results for the question-
naire sample suggesting that homeworkers were not over-
stressed in general. There was no significant difference in
GHQ scores across gender or occupation. The Likert scoring
method was used (total score range 0-36) with a higher score
indicating greater distress. Table 1 presents these GHQ scores
compared with other studies.
The mean score for the GHQ for this sample of homewor-
kers was 11.48 (SD = 6.272). Comparing this with other re-
search this mean is lower than caseworkers working with the
unemployed and levels reported for hospital and community-
based mental health staff (Prosser et al., 1996), and the unem-
ployed themselves (Winefield et al., 1991, cited in Goddard et
al., 2001). It was, however, notably higher than the average
reported by Banks et al. (1980) for single employed workers
and Propper et al. (2004) for the British Household Panel Sur-
vey, the largest average sample data set presented. This sug-
gests that at least for the questionnaire sample, homeworkers
were experiencing average stress levels as compared with stan-
dard scores but hey were certainly no less stressed than average
because of working from home.
The questionnaire data suggests, therefore, that homework-
ing in general is neither a positive or negative factor in well-
being. However, the qualitative data suggests that particular
sub-groups of homeworkers are more vulnerable to stress.
Eighteen of the forty-five who were interviewed (40%) said
that they found some aspect of working at home stressful or
frustrating. This was not differentiated by occupation. In other
words, traditional homeworkers were not generally finding
homeworking more stressful than professionals. However, the
younger the children of homeworkers the more susceptible
they seemed to be to stress. A father who ran his own calendar
business from home said: One of the frustrations is I think,
you feel youre not doing anything particularly well (Inter-
view 45, Derke, calendar businessman).
While traditional homeworkers as a group were not more
markedly stress, it is clear that the experience of homeworking
is obviously shaped by the nature of the work to be done. For
Table 1
GHQ scores compared across occupational and other groups
GHQ 12-item
Likert scoring
N Mean S.D.
Moore et al., (1995) Homeless people 470 13.52 7.74
Winefield et al. (2003) Australian university
staff
8,467 13.2 6.0
Goddard et al. (2001) case managers working
with unemployed
86 12.35 6.53
This study (homeworkers) 60 11.48 6.272
Propper et al. (2004) British Household Panel
Survey
9334 10.639 4.79
Banks et al. (1980) single employed 431 8.67 5.07
3
On the whole, traditional homeworkers have skilled or unskilled occupa-
tions which are predominantly low discretion forms of employment in that
they are predictable, routine, standardized and rule dominated, while profes-
sional homeworkers have high-discretion occupations which are variable,
complex and choice dominated.
J. Moore / Revue europenne de psychologie applique 56 (2006) 513 8
one home-based worker, the pressure was too much and she
gave up the job.
[I was] exhausted from sticking the slappers on these
crackers itself, gave us so much hassle you know. If you dont
put them on right youve go to take them off and then slap it
back on again. I used to get really down you know.. Like I
couldnt do the sticking because of the fumes they would get on
my chest. (Interview 32, Millie, cracker packer).
Many homeworkers found that, on balance, working from
home suited them overall.
Umm, I you know, there are difficult times, if Im under you
know, a lot of stress, but umm you know, on the whole I think
the benefits hugely outweigh the disadvantagesI mean for me
its hugely advantageous to spend so much time around my
children. (Interview 44, Adam, graphic designer).
3.2. More time with the family? The reasons for homeworking
Given this diversity in experience, it is necessary to explore
the differences in experiences of homeworking as well as the
reasons why people work from home. These can throw light on
their worklife balance goals.
The homeworkers from the questionnaire study worked
from home for a variety of reasons. Table 2 presents the first
reason given by homeworkers, divided into traditional (lower
paid, low skilled) and professional/managerial categories.
Overall, there was a difference between traditional and profes-
sional homeworkers as more traditional homeworkers (33%)
mentioned family as the first reason, than professional home-
workers (10.7%). For professional homeworkers the most fre-
quently cited reasons were flexibility, financial, family, less
commuting, convenience and work availability. For traditional
homeworkers, the reasons were family, convenience most sig-
nificantly, followed by flexibility and finance.
Table 3 presents this data by gender. The most frequently
mentioned reason given by male professionals was flexibility
(29.4%) but financial/economic reasons were most cited by fe-
male professionals (36.4%). For traditional homeworkers there
was also a gender differences with 50% of men citing work
availability and 37.9% of women referring to family as the
primary reason. This is despite there being no difference be-
tween professional and traditional homeworkers in the number
who had children (67.9% and 64.7%, respectively).
The interview data further revealed that the homeworking
experience was shaped by gender role and type of work (c.f.
Huws, 1994; Olson and Primps, 1984; Sullivan and Lewis,
2001). The samples were broadly categorized into professional
and traditional categories drawing on Felsted and Jewsons
(2000) categorization.
Homeworking was experienced differently by professional
and traditional homeworkers. Those in traditional homework-
ing employment felt they were both paid less than contempor-
aries working outside of the home and that they had fewer
employment benefits. Table 4 shows that traditional homewor-
kers were taking care of the children themselves, more than
professional homeworkers.
Traditional homeworkers tended to care for their children
themselves (63.6% of the questionnaire sample) thus combin-
ing work with childcare more directly than professional home-
workers (26.3%).This suggests that traditional homeworkers,
mostly women, are more likely to be working from home
and taking care of their children, as opposed to professional
homeworkers whose children are cared for elsewhere. This
has implications for the role of homeworking in shaping their
worklife balance. For some, it is an activity that enables child-
care, and for others, it is a primarily motivated by financial
reasons.
Table 2
Reasons for homeworking by type of homework
Reason Professional Traditional
Flexibility 21.4% (6) 12.12% (4)
Financial/economical 14.3% (4) 12.12% (4)
Family 10.7% (3) 33% (11)
Less commuting 10.7% (3) 3.03% (1)
Convenience 10.7% (3) 18.18% (6)
Work availability 10.7% (3) 9.09% (3)
More work satisfaction 7.1% (2) 0% (0)
Lifestyle 7.1% (2) 3.03% (1)
Health/age 3.6% (1) 6.06% (2)
More peaceful/comfortable at home 3.6% (1) 0% (0)
Autonomy 0% (0) 3.03% (1)
Total 100% (28) 100% (33)
Table 3
Primary reason for working from home
Reason Professional/Managerial Traditional
Male Female Male Female
N % N % N % N %
Flexibility 5
29.4
1
9.1
1 25 3
10.3
Less commuting 3
17.6
0
0
0 0 1
3.4
Convenience 2
11.8
1
9.1
0 0 6
20.7
Lifestyle 2
11.8
0
0
0 0 1
3.4
Work availability 2
11.8
1
9.1
2 50 1
3.4
Health/age 1
5.9
0
0
0 0 2
6.9
More peaceful/comfortable at home 1
5.9
0
0
0 0 0
0
More work satisfaction 1
5.9
1
9.1
0 0 0
0
Financial/economical 0
0
4
36.4
1 25 3
10.3
Family 0
0
3
27.3
0 0 11
37.9
J. Moore / Revue europenne de psychologie applique 56 (2006) 513 9
The interview data revealed that the homeworking experi-
ence was not an equal experience. Primary carers, often wo-
men, with low skills, low employment choice and little work
control found the practice of working from home more challen-
ging. Table 5 presents an overview of some of the differences
found in the study as identified from the thematic analysis.
Homeworkers with young children found it difficult to bal-
ance home and work responsibilities. Traditional homeworkers
had less choice and control over the work they did and often
had fewer spatial resources to support the work. Both of these
groups were finding homeworking more difficult, contributing
to a potential reduction in well-being and quality of life.
Homeworking was further influenced by the ways in which
homeworkers coped with motivation and stress and how these
factors tended to shape their expectations of themselves and
their work (c.f. Tietze, 2002 for coping strategies). Most of
the men in our sample primarily saw themselves as wage earn-
ers and found fewer difficulties in mixing home and work than
women. Some people, particularly women in professional oc-
cupations said they expected working from home would allow
them to do more in all aspects of their lives, without having to
reduce the time spent on any of their roles, such as a worker or
parent. These homeworkers felt dissatisfied with the reality.
Others, especially mothers in traditional occupations, tended
to have a more realistic view of the advantages of working
from home and accepted the low pay as they prioritised staying
at home with their children. Women in professional or manage-
rial occupations tended to see their home and work responsi-
bilities as equal. These women experienced more tensions be-
tween their roles as homemakers and workers. Women in
professional occupations often expected working from home
would allow them to do more in all aspects of their lives. Wo-
men in the questionnaire sample more frequently gave family
as the reason for working from home than men. This suggests
that a key element in the different experience of homeworking
may be the initial motivation to work from home and the ex-
pectations of homeworking.
3.3. A healthy balance between home and work?
For every positive side of homeworking, there was also a
negative side. From the interviews, most frequently mentioned
were flexibility in time and work and independence. Many
homeworkers found they could manage many tasks more ea-
sily. These included paid work; the care of others such as
spouses, children and elderly or disabled relatives, as well
household tasks such as cleaning, cooking, washing, shopping,
gardening and paying bills. In general, homeworkers often
found that working from home meant they could more easily
carry out their home tasks and contribute to a healthier life-
style.
I can chuck the washing in, remember to get it out and put
it in the drier and sometimes actually put it back, or iron it,
mainly not actually. But at least do that. Clean clothes are
appearing kind of thing. We eat much much more healthily.
We used to be Tescos packet food people. Now everything is
just about fresh and freshly cooked and everything, which was
part of the plan actuallyAnd also being able to choose when
I want to do it. You have to juggle, you have to make a priority
of decisions all the time. (Interview 42, Debbie, inspector/
mediator).
Forty-one of the forty-five homeworkers interviewed said
homeworking afforded them flexibility in and control over
the in the ways they used their time. Nearly half (46%) of the
questionnaire sample also mentioned flexibility as a reason for
working from home. This reason was most frequently cited and
although lower than the qualitative data, this is still significant.
The lower level of response may reflect the different methodol-
ogies with the questionnaire offering three short open-ended
spaces in contrast to an hour long interview where reasons
where discussed. In addition the qualitative analysis consisted
of grouping responses into themes, whereas the questionnaire
responses were treated more literally.
Home life is less stressful because theres no time con-
straints really. [Before] I knew that if I didnt get finished at
half past four in the afternoon, then I would have had to leave
to get the train. [Now] work can carry on in the evening or the
next day or whatever (Interview 2: Female Cartographer).
Most of the samples felt they had greater independence in
their working life, however some also found it difficult to keep
motivated and focused. Most of those who found flexibility to
Table 4
Percentage of professional and traditional respondents with children
Professional/Managerial Traditional
N % N %
School 9
47.4
7
31.8
Self 5 26.3 14 63.6
Spouse/partner 5
26.3
6
27.3
Nursery/crche 3
15.8
2
9.1
Family 2
10.5
2
9.1
Childminder 1
5.3
1
4.5
Friends 0
0.0
1
4.5
*These percentages/numbers of respondents exceed the total as respondents
often indicated more than one way in which their children were cared for.
Table 5
Differences in homeworking experience
Skills
occupation
Work Gender role Key motivation
to work from home
Expectation/Orientation
to work
Low
(traditional)
Low paid, no control,
little choice
Mostly female Family
Primary carer Family oriented
Few supports
High
(professional)
High paid, control and choice Mostly men
Primary/shared carer
Flexibility Family-work oriented
High supports
J. Moore / Revue europenne de psychologie applique 56 (2006) 513 10
be a benefit also felt they worked longer hours. One of the
biggest challenges facing professional homeworkers was a ten-
dency to overwork.
Umm, youre your own boss, you can do things in your
own time and if I want to work really late at night I can do,
it means Im not like getting stressed umm rushing about the
city. I know that if something interrupts me I can stop and Ill
catch up later. Because I can do this work at anytime of the day
or night (Interview 14, Tina, caterer/craft worker).
Many of those homeworkers in professional occupations re-
cognized that negotiating the homework boundary was essen-
tial to successful homeworking (c.f. Sullivan, 2000).
Umm its almost a schizophrenia Youve got to be able to
put work in a box and yes, my family might argue that I dont
put it in a box, but I do in as much as yes Im always working
umm, but that work is in a box (Interview 38: Female Profes-
sional).
For some, working from home contributed to a greater sense
of self and an internal balance.
There is a lot less dissonance between who I am and who I
was at work now. I am me at home and at work now and that is
partly to do with the work Ive chosen to do, as much as work-
ing from home. But there isnt this separation; I dont put on a
different persona when I leave the house, and have to do a job
for an organisation. I think thats partly it. (Interview 42,
Debbie, inspector/mediator).
For others, their work and home lives blurred.
I mean I dont think most people think a home is the place
to work in, you see this has always been like that..its always
been a place where I work. Its had to be done. You know I
think most people dont combine the two, home is just a place
to switch off, to relax in. I combine the two. I do, I combine the
two. (Interview 5: Mandy, 50s, audio-typist).
Quality of life for homeworkers is therefore not an auto-
matic result but shaped by type of work, personal motivation
among other factors. What is important is whether or not work-
ing from home can ease the tension between work and home
life and reduce stress.
4. Conclusion
Does homeworking increase quality of life?
If quality of life concerns subjective and objective well-
being, homeworking in general does not increase quality of
life. Rather, working from home has both a positive and nega-
tive impact on particular homeworkers, varying by type of
homework, reason for homeworking and expectations as much
as by psychological factors such as motivation and control.
This research found that homeworking was not experienced
in the same way for everyone (Moore and Crosbie, 2002) and
was markedly gendered, mirroring the broader experience of
worklife balance. The homeworking experience was shaped
by gender and type of work. Traditional homeworkers had dif-
ferent reasons for homeworking and were more likely to be
caring for children as well as working. Homeworkers in profes-
sional occupations tended to find the experience more positive
than those in traditional occupations.
Homeworking is being promoted as part of a repertoire of
initiatives to enhance the work/life balance without clear indi-
cation or definition of their value or limitations. This research
suggests that the quality of life of homeworkers may not be
any better than other workers. They experience average stress
levels, and report the same difficulties of having to balance
childcare with work, particularly for women. There is however,
evidence to suggest that it is a stressful experience for home-
workers with young children, doing menial low-paid work. It is
also shaped by personal factors. Homeworking can offer great-
er flexibility and independence but can lead to people carrying
work into evenings and weekends. Homeworkers work long
hours, not shorter ones. In other words, homeworking is not a
panacea for working life.
This paper argues that the concept of quality of life has yet
to be fully examined. While there is a need to take environ-
mental factors into account, this cannot happen uncritically.
In particular, giving people more time at home does not in turn
lead to greater quality of life. Home environments have yet to
be problematized in relation to quality of life. Home is gen-
dered, ripe with unequal experiences and potentially negative
experiences (Moore, 2000a).
In relation to homeworking, there are potential supports,
which, if understood, can be useful in improving the working
lives of many. The social supports include appropriate child-
care and a social network that can sustain homeworking prac-
tices. Furthermore, there is a need for personal supports to en-
able homeworkers to cope with periods of loneliness, potential
stress and to maintain high levels of self-motivation. There is a
further need to help homeworkers develop boundaries in time
and space between the worlds of home and work, countering
the tendency to work longer hours as a homeworker. These in
combination with physical supports, such as sufficient space to
work and negotiated use of this space with family members,
would help to foster a greater balance between home and work
for homeworkers.
In conclusion, homeworking provides an opportunity for
many to combine work with other areas of their lives success-
fully as part of any worklife balance initiative. However,
working from home has an impact on home and family life,
which is not yet understood fully as it seems to have a varied
impact. More research examining working from home from the
perspective of homeworkers is needed so that we can gain a
greater understanding of the ways in which it shapes peoples
home and work lives and contributes to their quality of life
Huws et al., 1996.
Acknowledgements
The homeworking research was funded by the Economic
and Social Research Council as part of the project Quality
of home experience for homeworkers (R000223592). My
thanks to Dr Tracey Crosbie who was the researcher on the
J. Moore / Revue europenne de psychologie applique 56 (2006) 513 11
project and the National Group on homeworking who sup-
ported the research.
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