bulleWorking from home can be beneficial both for employees and employers, says Melissa Lawrence.

Working from home has become so popular that one in 20 people now uses the home as an office at least one day a week.

Among secretaries and PAs, however, the picture is rather different as they are often the last employees to be offered the chance of working from home. Many managers seem to be reluctant to let go off their right-hand women (or men) and still subscribe to the view that out of sight is out of control. But if you genuinely feel that you could work just as well - if not better - from home, you have every right to do so. The problem is convincing your boss.

"Start by presenting a case to your boss that shows how teleworking will benefit them," advises Alan Denbigh, of the Telecottage association.

What exactly are the benefits for the organisation ? Surveys show that employees who work from home are between 10 and 50 per cent more productive than their office-based colleagues. If you can show that your productivity will increase, the company may not care whether you are working from home, in the office or on a desert island.

You can also point out that you are likely to be more loyal to the company if you are allowed to work from home, says Jacky Grant, the national chairman of the Institute of Qualified Private Secretaries. "You'll be happier because you are working in your home environment, and happy employees don't look elsewhere," she says.

Pay particular attention to where in your home you can set up your office as your productivity is likely to go down rather than up unless you find a separate working area where you will not be disturbed. Be prepared to install a dedicated work phoneline and all the other relevant technology. Think carefully about what support systems you can set up for yourself to compensate for the lack of social contact with office colleagues.

When it comes to assessing your boss's needs look beyond the view that your manager will be incapable of functioning without you, says Mr Denbigh. "Most managers are reasonably competent with computers; it is administrative help they really need."

However, it is important to realise that your manager does not need to know that the work is still going to get done, regardless of where you are. In a recent survey 51 per cent of directors says employees needed to be better organised before moving to a home office. As a secretary or PA, your organisational skills are probably second to none, but it's important for both you and your boss to accept that working practices will have to change if you are no longer in the office.


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