Work from home and never see your family

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If you are stuck on the train or in a traffic jam every morning, you might well dream about working from home. But the reality is that flexible working does not necessarily lead to greater leisure or family time.

The number of British employers offering the option of home working is soaring, according to official figures, which have estimated that 46 per cent of businesses now allow staff to work remotely - three times more than at the same time last year.

Yet the benefits of flexible working may not be all they are cracked up to be, a poll of more than 1,400 workers by mobile phone operator Orange has concluded.

In fact, not only is home or flexible working more likely to mean a worker stepping off the career ladder and taking a pay cut, but four out of 10 do not even end up with any more time to themselves or for their families because of the way their new working pattern is structured.

Some 45 per cent complained that flexible working meant more working during their free time, such as at evenings and weekends.

Robert Ainger, director of communications for Orange Business Services, said there was a gap between perception and reality when it came to flexible working.

"A key challenge is how notions of effectiveness are being redefined. Being the first or the last in the office can no longer be a measure of an employee's commitment and productivity and managing a flexible workforce will mean worrying less about how employees work and more about what they produce," he pointed out.

Despite this, half of the employees polled said being able to work more flexibly was an important factor in choosing their next job.

Yet at the same time they feared that being absent from the office could result in them being kept out of the loop.

The number of teleworkers as a proportion of the UK working population has been rising steadily since 1997, when figures first started to be collated.

At that point around four per cent of workforce teleworked, but by 2005 this had risen to eight per cent, according to the British government's Work-life Balance Employee Survey.

More than three quarters of home workers are also teleworkers, with managers and senior officials making up nearly a quarter of the total, the survey said.

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