Making Home Working Work

homework

Now that you have been given the go-ahead for working at home, perhaps flexible working, part or full time what happens next? Initially all seems straight forward – jump out of bed and I’m there, right? Of course it is for some, however my research and work with clients suggests otherwise.

Well the technology is probably the easiest part of the equation.  You may well have been given or bought a shiny new laptop, smart phone and had a new internet connection fitted………..but where is the best place to work from a home base? A seemingly straight forward question that will need some careful thought. If you are lucky and have the resources then a purpose built office (plumbed in and fully powered) at the bottom of the garden is probably the ideal situation. However, for most people converting a garage, bedroom, or a corner of the living room will have to do. The corner of the living room alternative may be fine if working alone but what happens if there are children in the work/home space?

Needless to say, if you have a family the complex negotiations around do’s and don’ts would have hopefully been discussed. For example, what happens when the children get home from school and you are in the middle of an important call, how are these situations to be managed? Do you have a “do not disturb” sign up on the door, or perhaps rent a co-working space for certain times of the day. These and many other family & personal issues are fundamental questions that will need to be explored prior to the big day of being at home at work. These aspects come into sharp focus when using space in the home where distractions are difficult to manage successfully.

From my research & work with clients, it seems as though many home workers adopt very similar patterns to actually going to a external place of work in an office or factory. Possibly explained by a cognitive schema of what it means to go to work. For example schemas suggest they act as a cognitive shortcut to help us navigate the world around us without using up too much cognitive processing power. Therefore the initial schema for paid employment may well not encompass working in your home, as home is a place for other things. To compensate, many participants (male) put on a shirt and tie to both project an impression to themselves and members of family that they were off to work. Albeit in the same place they had breakfast moments before. Women adopt similar behavioural strategies as men, though traditional roles in the home alter perceptions of the preparation for going to work.  

Many people actively “commuted” to their work by perhaps leaving the house to take a partner to the railway station of go to the gym before starting work at home. Now the business of temporal and spacial separation seems to apply to the home workers, as there is a need to leave one space (home, family etc) and re-enter the home as a workplace. The commute certainly helps people to re-focus their minds on the day ahead and the tasks that need to be completed.

So although the business of working in or at home may seem straightforward the few issues noted above are the tip of the iceberg of making transitions toward from a home base. Organisations need support to help manage employees transitions just as the employee will need ongoing support and insight to negotiate the psychological dimensions of home based working. So utilising psychology to help your transition will hopefully ensure there are no surprises when you take the plunge to work from a home base.

Gis’a Job – psychology of unemployment

Youth-unemployment

To some unemployment, either the dreaded sack, compromise agreement or redundancy, is an opportunity to change a working life or perhaps turns into being the worse nightmare. Needless to say, the mortgage and the bills will still need to be paid and without the buffer of severance/redundancy pay times can be tough. However, with support job seeking can be the platform to move on toward sustainable and fulfilling work once more.  Now then, we are all aware of the practical & economic effects of not having a regular income – but what are the psychological dimensions of being out of work?

Interestingly there is very little research into unemployment, certainly when compared to other areas of workplace psychology such as leadership & management. Readers can add their own reasons for this. Research tends to lag behind social & economic events so when times are good research into this subject can move down the pecking order. However, having worked in the Welfare to Work sector here in the UK creating coaching & learning programmes for unemployed people with a great deal of success, I hope to draw together the lived experience and the psychological dimensions of job seekers and how to manage the transition back to the workplace. .

The process of losing a job can produce a number of differing affects. Indeed the organisational processes of shedding workers can greatly affect the way that they perceive the organisation & themselves. So being told you are redundant by text may be cheap but will greatly influence how ex-workers feel about the business – and we all know about negative publicity etc. So the individual is out of work, what next? Many people’s frame of reference is that not at work = being on holiday, happy days! Initially then to some there can be a sense of elation that “I am free”! For some the release & euphoria can delay the need to update the employability skills necessary to re-engage with the workplace. Older workers (an older worker is now 40+ by the way) who have been in a job for a while may have a lot of ground to make up in terms of CV’s, interview skills etc to bring them up to the expectations of recruiters.

So a couple of months pass and the CV has been updated and jobs applied for – but no replies or invitations to interviews.  Generally an individual may get one interview per ten applications, so this process erodes an already flagging sense of motivation, self esteem, confidence and self worth. It is common for people who have been unemployed for six months or longer to show signs of depression and anxiety. Eating habits may change and focus on comfort foods to help manage the negative emotions of being jobless. Stress, anxiety and negative thoughts make it hard to get a good night’s sleep, resulting in fatigue and lethargy. Dame Carol Black (2008) suggests that being unemployed doubles a person’s chance of a major depressive episode and that unemployment is also highly associated with domestic violence and alcohol abuse. Notwithstanding the increased risk of suicide, often because of the link to depression. Therefore being unemployed can be one of the most difficult, most devastating, debilitating and distressing experiences that people go through.

Unemployment therefore has many psychological, social & economic difficulties attached the individual & groups such as young adults and older workers for example. But what can be done to help restructure unemployed peoples strategies, thoughts and actions? Clearly, we need to support improving confidence & self-esteem but also more importantly self-efficacy.   Self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.” (Bandura 1994). In other words, self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel. Self-efficacy therefore is a dimension that helps individuals manage a wide range of tasks so those with high self efficacy will have – 

  • View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered
  • Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
  • Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities
  • Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments

Needless to say, this blog only allows a cursory glance at self-efficacy but Albert Bandura’s book “Self-Efficacy – the exercise of control” (1997) can provide a number of valuable insights into self-efficacy and the social cognition theories.

Now then being out of work is tough for all the reasons listed above but with the right support there are opportunities to help change situations for the better. The mental health issues can be difficult to overcome but can be managed with a staged progression back toward sustainable & fulfilling work. What ever we feel on Monday morning, work is a healthy place to be. With support and help to learn new employability skills, perhaps some volunteering and coaching to support the progress whilst managing improving confidence and self-efficacy realistically can and does focus upon achievable strategies to be a succes search for the right job or career for you. Besides with all these new skills and abilities, confidence and motivation an organisation would be a fool not to employ you – right! Drop me a line for confidential support for re-employment and career outplacement advice and support.

Bibliography

Black, C (2008)  “Working for a healthier tomorrow: work and health in Britain” Dept of Work & Pensions, London 

References

Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior,4. New York: Academic Press, pp. 71-81.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: the exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman.