"Homeworking is a convenient way to earn extra money without incurring travel costs, as I was spending up to one-third of my salary on fuel to travel to a job elsewhere on the island.
As the Team Leader for Hebrides Search and Rescue and I often have to change my schedule at short notice, so having a flexible working life is important."
When your response to a phone call could be a matter of life and death, you need to ensure you can be there when it matters. Few people understand this better than Mike Walker who successfully combines part-time homeworking with roles in the Scottish Ambulance Service and as a volunteer Team Leader for Hebrides Search and Rescue.
Mike, who lives in Harris in the Outer Hebrides, has a very active and varied life. He combines family time with handling calls at home for customers of Arise, working for the Ambulance Service, and leading urgent mountain or coastal rescue missions. “I often have to change my schedule at short notice on missions with Search and Rescue and Mountain Rescue so having flexibility in my working life is important,” he says.
Formerly in the RAF, Mike worked as a computer engineer before joining the Scottish Ambulance Service. This meant he had a broad range of skills to offer when he applied to become a part-time homeworker. “I had a mix of experience and I was comfortable with technology and administration,” he says.
He was introduced to the homeworking concept through a local newspaper advert and says an initial attraction was that it offered a convenient way for him to earn extra money.
“The range of job opportunities on Harris is fairly narrow, so the chance to work from home is ideal. When I first moved to Harris, I was spending up to one-third of my salary paying for fuel to travel to my job elsewhere on the island. It takes an hour and a quarter to commute to Stornoway, so the opportunity to augment my salary with earnings from homeworking was really attractive,” he says.
He completed a training course for Arise over evenings and weekends, meeting all the UK and US training requirements. This means he can handle calls from both British and American-based clients and work across different time zones. He handles calls on a range of topics for a variety of clients, most relating to customer service. For example, Mike handles applications from people interested in becoming courier drivers.
He enjoys working for International Travel Timeshare Company, a US-based holiday company, and also takes calls for BT Emergency Response in Northern Ireland, which provides phone lines for emergency response teams.
Mike appreciates being able to vary his hours depending on what other commitments he has each week, whether professional or personal. “For example, if I have to go away with Mountain Rescue, I can put my booked hours up for swap online,” he says. Provided this is within 48 hours of them being due, there is no penalty.
“I would recommend homeworking to others. I find it rewarding and fulfilling and I enjoy it. You need to be disciplined though, and you need to have the right mindset, especially for handling difficult calls. If customers are annoyed or agitated you just have to remember that you are on the phone, they can’t see you and it is not personal. You just do your best to resolve their call as professionally as possible.”
Homeworking has also proved a good fit with family life for Mike:
“One of the main benefits of being able to work from home is we can spend more time together as a family, compared to the hours I spent commuting to other jobs,” he says. “It allows me to shape my own working week and to accommodate all my various commitments.”
MIKE’S TOP TIPS ON HOMEWORKING: