FEATURE: It's home comforts for City staff
Two minutes after Darren Johnson finishes his City Taxis night shift, he's fast asleep in bed.
The call centre worker, from Woodseats, works three or four nights shifts a week, each one from a desk set up in his bedroom.
And he’s not the only one. Customers calling Sheffield’s recently merged taxi company are highly likely to be assisted by someone working from the comfort of their own home, as an astonishing 62 per cent of City Taxis’ call centre staff now work remotely.
For Darren, this means a saving of £25 a week on travel to and from the office. It also gives the 22-year-old, who began working for the company last April, the freedom to visit his hometown of Elgin in Scotland regularly, without missing a day’s work.
Over Christmas, Darren headed up to his mum’s home in Scotland with his phone, laptop and headset in his suitcase and logged on for his shifts in between family gatherings and outings. The arrangement allowed him to celebrate with family without missing a single shift, or facing an 11 hour commute. Though had any problems developed with City’s remote-working system, just like every other homeworker, Darren would have had to make his way straight to the office. Thankfully there were no hitches.
It’s all part of a new trend that now sees an estimated 4.2 million UK workers performing their jobs remotely every single week, the highest rate since records began in 1998. In this region through, companies are a little slower to catch on and only 11.3 per cent of Yorkshire and Humber workers currently work from home.
City Taxis initially came up with the idea as a solution-solver, but they found the system works so effectively for both the company and its employees, its here to stay.
City director Arnie Singh explains: “Originally, home working was a privilege for senior members of staff who had normally been here for a few years, when they had shown their worth, got plenty of experience and had demonstrated they could handle the role well. We had, at most, 10 people working from home.
“But when City Taxis merged with Mercury Taxis last June there was an influx of Mercury call centre staff. Clearly they couldn’t all sit at the same desks. Homeworking provided an instant solution and was offered to all staff, some who had only been working for the company for a few months.”
Now 50 of City’s 80-strong call centre team work from home.
Among them is HR Training Coordinator Liam Brewster, the man in charge of making homeworking at City Taxis a reality after he became their test case.
Liam, now 24, worked for the newly-merged taxi firm two days a week throughout university, working remotely from his Scarborough campus of the University of Hull.
Liam, who now lives back in Waterthorpe, explains: “I started at City as a call centre adviser and was delighted when they trusted me to be a ‘homeworker’ for two years when I went away to university 100 miles away in Scarborough.
“I was given a phone and a laptop by the company and I’d do 12-16 hours a week at about £7.50 per hour, the same as the call centre staff, with no travel expenses to pay. My mum and girlfriend work here too as telephonists. In fact, I met my girlfriend when I trained her here. She was introduced to the company by her mum who works here too.”
Kirsty Cawthorne, of Sheffield, has also seen her life change for the better after being given the opportunity to work from home.
The single mum has worked for Mercury for the past seven years, full time at first and then going down to two days a week following the birth of her daughter. After the company merger, her bus journeys to the office took around 90 minutes each way. After three months of working at City’s Lower Don Valley premises, Kirsty was offered the opportunity to work from home in August last year. Homeworking has brought her big advantages, shaving three travel hours off her working day and being at home means she can log on at very short notice to work extra shifts when needed, earning additional income.
City homeworkers are required to work just one shift every two weeks in the City Taxis office, so they can be updated on new information.
City director Arnie adds: “Home-working has proven to be a great solution for our firm, offering flexibility for both staff and employer.
“We will continue to attract staff who appreciate flexible homeworking to join our team. We have found our homeworkers appreciate the flexibility and are, in return, loyal and reliable.”
WORKING FROM HOME
* 13.9 per cent of the UK’s working population are now homeworkers.
* The number of UK homeworkers has grown by 1.3 million since 1998.
* Two-thirds of homeworkers were self-employed in 2014.
* West Somerset has the highest rate of homeworkers at 25.7 per cent, while Yorkshire and the Humber has the lowest, at 11.5 per cent.
* Homeworkers are defined as those who usually spend at least half of their work time using their home as a base.
* Homeworkers are more likely to work more extreme hours, with 27 per cent working in excess of 45 hours a week, as opposed to 19 per cent of non-homeworkers.