Nicky is a teleworker and lives with her husband and two children aged 8 and 7 years.
Case Study updated 2002/03
- Q. What do you do?
- A. I'm currently an Internet Librarian employed by Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library. I've been working there since October 1997. I started out as a technical writer (self employed) in 1993.
- Q. Where do you work at home?
- A. At a desk in the corner of the kitchen. It's a bit crowded, but I cope.
- Q. Do you manage to keep your work and home life separate?
- A. During term times I work while my children are out at school. I don't work at all in the early evening so the children (and my husband) have my undivided attention then. The rest of the time it's a bit mix and match - I make the children sandwiches and drinks while waiting for Internet sites to load, etc. Sometimes, especially in the school holidays, I have to work late at night or at weekends to catch up.
- Q. What is the best thing about working from home?
- A. Being with my children. Freedom to choose my own schedule is also useful.
- Q. What are the negative points about working at home?
- A. Other people don't always respect the fact that self-imposed deadlines are as real as the other kind. Also, I do tend to forget to eat lunch when I'm on my own.
- Q. What was the deciding factor to help you to decide to work from home?
- A. I couldn't find an engineering job when I moved up to Edinburgh after my marriage. So I worked in the Civil Service and did the technical writing to supplement my income and keep my technical knowledge up to date. After my first child was born I gave up the Civil Service job and did more of the technical writing so that I could be at home all the time.
- Q. How do you cope with the isolation of working at home?
- A. My children finish school around 3pm and their social life is very hectic, so I do get to see lots of other mothers, although we rarely have time for extended conversations. My husband and I have quite an active social life in the evenings and at weekends, so I don't feel too isolated.
- Q. Does your homeworking pay the bills?
- A. Yes. I get a better hourly rate of pay than my husband.
- Q. How did you manage financially when you first started working at home?
- A. Lower expectations of lifestyle. I had a well paid job in London, but I didn't mind giving it up to move to a place where I'm happier bringing up my children. And since I'm at home most of the time I can wear jeans instead of expensive clothes.
- Q. What sort of work did you do before you worked at home?
- A. I started out as an electrical engineer with Thorn EMI Fergusson working on televisions. When they were sold I moved to Derwent Information as a technical writer.
- Q. How do you manage your time?
A. I work 28 hours a week, which is approximately 6 hours a day. In term times my husband takes the children to school on his way to work and on Mondays and Thursdays I start work before 9am. I have to pick the children up at 3.15, so that gives me about 6½ hours of work time. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays I have to go in to the office, which means that, with travelling time, I only have about 4 hours of work time, so I then have to do extra later on. On Fridays the children have a half day, so I can only work for three hours while they are at school, and again work spreads into the rest of the day.
During holiday times things are considerably more complicated and irregular, although usually my bosses are prepared to allow me not to come in to the office as often, which helps a lot.
- Q. How do you cope with distractions at home?
- A. I try to fit the children's requirements round my work. As I work with the Internet there are plenty of short intervals during the day while I wait for sites to load, etc in which I can peel fruit for snacks and put dresses on unco-operative Barbies. The kids watch more videos than I'd like, but usually they're good at keeping each other entertained, and they can get their own food and drinks. The older one has an ambition to bring me tea at my desk, but I'm not sure she should pour the kettle unless I'm with her. Sometimes they sit with me and draw or read books while I sit and type, which is very nice for all of us.
The worst thing is their after school activities which are all of short duration and I don't seem to have managed to synchronise things so they're both away at the same time. On some days I am dropping off and picking up children at half hour intervals from 3.15 to 6.30 and don't really have time to do anything very constructive in the short breaks when I'm at home.
- Q. What two pieces of advice would you suggest to someone considering working from home?
- A. You need to be self-sufficient to some extent because when the computer crashes or something else goes wrong you can't just phone down to technical support. Also, you have to be able to motivate yourself and work without someone looking over your shoulder.