Home working has grown exponentially in the last decade. The proportion of home workers in the UK reached 4.2 million (13.7 percent of the workforce) in 2015, rising to 17.7 percent in the information and communications sector. Senior staff are more likely to be given the chance to shun the office, with the percentage of managers working from home increasing to 1 in 5.
If you’re given the chance to leave office politics, a long commute or worries about childcare far behind you, it seems obvious that you’d jump at the chance. But home working isn’t for everyone. We list some pros and cons to help you decide whether home or office will work best for you:
Pro: Better work/life balance
Working from home enables individuals much greater flexibility, allowing them to set their own timetable around other, family-based commitments. If effectively thought through, domestic activities can be planned around as part of a working day – a particular advantage to parents or carers who can be available much more readily when needed, giving them a peace of mind that would be impossible in an office.
Con: People are more productive together
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made headlines back in 2013 for banning the previously entrenched practice of telecommuting, controversially claiming: “... Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” It’s a convincing argument, especially in roles which demand innovation and creative thinking, which often happen much more effectively in group settings.
Pro: Better communication
This may seem counter-intuitive given the vastly reduced face-to-face interactions that occur in a home rather than an office environment. But being forced to clarify your thoughts in an email or phone call can help vital information to be communicated much more effectively than in a waffle-filled meeting.
Con: Performance issues
This is one of the main reasons managers often cite for insisting more junior member of staff come into the office to work. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to monitor an employee’s performance if they’re not just down the hall or in the same room. In the worst cases, work standards and skills can deteriorate to a point that’s difficult to come back from.
Pro: Cost saving
Commuting times in the UK are getting ever longer. The ONS found 3.7 million people now commute more than two hours a day – valuable time that could be spent engaged in productive work. As well as the time and stress, the financial cost of travelling to work is borne by the employee, meaning working from home can amount to a significant pay rise.
Con: It can be expensive
While home working might work out well for an employee’s personal finances, the costs to a company can be considerable. If a role requires regular access to specialist equipment or tools, for example, teleworking may not be the ideal setup. A worker might also require costly training to ensure they can perform all their tasks satisfactorily outside the office, an expense not every organisation is willing to cough up for.
As as many CTOs and CIOs will be more than aware, the UK is facing a serious digital skills gap. From inadequate equipment in schools and a shortage of appropriately qualified computer science teachers to an estimated 12.6 million British adults who lack even basic digital skills, the gap can lead to serious headaches for businesses who want to stay ahead of the global curve.
A 2016 report by the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee appealed to businesses to do their bit by investing more in IT education at all levels. As many organisations struggle to fill key posts with qualified candidates, there are plenty of other measures your organisation can take to boost IT literacy on a company and national level:
With such demand for decent IT staff, holding onto promising talent is more challenging than ever before. Ensuring you give your valued employees interesting projects to work on as well as offering regular, bespoke training identified through regular performance reviews can encourage them to stay put.
Recruit more broadly
As many a successful IT recruiter will confirm, it pays to look beyond IT just graduates when looking to recruit talent. Look out for hackathon competitors, self-taught programmers and developers using low-code development platforms to come up with innovative IT solutions. Any of them could have the necessary skills and enthusiasm to complement a more traditionally trained IT team.
Tackle the glass ceiling
The decreasing proportion of women in tech positions in the UK should concern any CTO worth their salt. Research has repeatedly shown that more diverse businesses tend to see better financial returns, but still less than 17 percent of the UK’s STEM workforce was made up of women as of 2016. Positive actions include: actively going into schools and encouraging young women to think seriously about tech career paths, ensuring women can re-enter the workforce at the same level after breaks and implementing a respectful and inclusive workplace culture.
Join forces with an academic institution
Companies who invest at school and university level education programs now can reap the rewards for years to come. Even if you can’t follow in Rackdoor or IBM’s footsteps by setting up your own academy or offering additional training to secondary school age children, there are still productive steps you can take. Simply opening a communication with a local state school about their curriculum can give you the chance to offer suggestions on ways to improve it, for example.
While designing organisation-specific training, from internships to mentoring programs, might involve time and effort, the advantages are enormous. You can provide bespoke programs not available elsewhere that will benefit your company directly, as well as more broadly applicable IT skills.
The very first thing your potential employer sees in your IT management application is the cover letter. It isn’t just there to support the rest of your application, a striking cover letter can make you stand out from the competition and persuade a time-pushed recruiter to put you straight through to the next stage. Be careful of spending precious hours tweaking your CV or application form and leaving this till the last minute – an all too common trap. Here are our top tips for success:
Research, research, research
Don’t wait till the interview to demonstrate your knowledge about the company you’re applying to join. Even a couple of sentences that show you’ve researched its current systems, strategies and market position will make you seem genuinely enthusiastic and likely to impress at interview. You’ll also be able to ensure the rest of your application is aligned with the company style.
Always address your letter to a specific person. A recruiter is much more likely to pay attention to one that starts with “Dear Ms. Jones” rather than the generic “Dear Sir/Madam.” There’s usually a contact in the application pack, but try these tips if you’re stuck.
Mention experience early
Highlight the relevance of any awards, experiences or skills to the role you’re going for at the very beginning. “I’m writing to apply for the ICT Manager position” makes much less impact than “I believe that my experience designing integrated solutions across people and systems for XXX makes me the ideal candidate for your ICT manager position”. If you’re unsure which elements of your experience to include, use the list of attributes listed in the job description for inspiration. By proving you meet an employer’s requirements straight off the bat, you’re putting yourself in a much stronger position from the outset.
Filling your letter with empty clichés is utterly counterproductive. Particular phrases to avoid include: ‘I’m a team player’, ‘I think outside the box’ and ‘I think I’m the best candidate for this position.’ The first is meaningless, the second uses a cliché to describe how original you are, while the third easily comes off as both wishy-washy and presumptuous. You’re much better off using slightly longer, well considered statements to describe relevant strengths. “I’m adept at communicating complex technical detail across departments,” for example, followed by a concrete instance when you displayed that skill.
Don’t regurgitate your CV
Your cover letter should complement, rather than repeat, the information on your CV, so the employer gets a better picture of you and your application by reading both. Try to use language and tone that’s true to who you are rather than coming across as ‘off-the-shelf’ – run your final draft past an eloquent friend if possible. The letter should also never, under any circumstances, go over one page. You’re trying to draw someone in and show precisely why you’re such a fantastic fit in as few words as possible.