Simply put, teleworking is working from anywhere outside of your company's main office.
What is Teleworking?
Teleworking can take many forms, including; working from home, working remotely, working off-site, telecommuting. It’s really about being about doing your job wherever you are even though you are not necessarily at ‘the office’.
The advances in technology mean that many businesses can now provide staff access to the business’ IT systems when they are away from the office.
Increasing in popularity teleworking is backed by the New Zealand and Australian governments. Australia have set a target to have 12% of the public-sector teleworking by 2020. Although the New Zealand government has no targets set, it is encouraging businesses to offer flexible work via The Employment Relations (Flexible Working Arrangements) Act.
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Why is it becoming Popular?
Teleworking is increasing in popularity because of the advances in technology and the fact it imparts benefits to employers and employees. New technologies such as smartphones, laptops, video conferencing, cloud computing and faster broadband are making it possible to work in almost any location, accessing company data from almost anywhere at any time.
The 2013 Regus Global indicator canvassing over 26,000 business managers across 90 countries, found that 48% now work remotely for at least half their working week.
Benefits of Teleworking
- Improved employee satisfaction – less time spent commuting, better work-life balance, and reduction in stress as a result of working from home improves employee satisfaction.
- Improved staff retention – improved employee satisfaction translates to better staff retention. Employers who offer teleworking as an option often find it easier to recruit staff. Teleworking can also be a useful option to provide flexibility for staff who have been on maternity / paternity leave, are recovering from an injury or illness, or are nearing retirement.
- Improved staff productivity - according to the National Business Review, organisations that adopt flexible teleworking can boost staff productivity by 25% to 30%. This has been accredited to fewer distractions, reduced stress, better time management and employees actually working longer hours – due to the time saved from their daily commute. In addition, staff who telework tend to take less sick days and often continue to work when they are sick (without infecting others).
- Improved Business Continuity – whether it’s a heavy snowfall or extensive damage due to an earthquake, providing the ability for staff to work remotely means that in a disaster your business is may be able to continue to operate.
- Reduced costs – teleworking staff can significantly reduce in overheads including office space, furniture, etc. It can also save money by reducing absenteeism, improving staff retention and reducing travel costs as staff become more used to online tools and software for collaboration and communication. Auckland Transport believes cost savings for an employee teleworking 2 days per week for a year can be up to NZ$12,000.
For more information take a look at the Crown Fibre Holding telework video covering the benefits of working from home.
Who should Telework?
Teleworking is definitely not for everyone, nor is it suitable for every role. The staff member teleworking must be able to work autonomously and be trusted. In fact, employees who perform repetitive tasks have demonstrated to have productivity rates of 6-10% less than their onsite colleagues. Other staff may need more support and companionship than teleworking allows. However, it can work really well for the right person in the right role, conveying a ‘win-win’ for the company and the employee.
Steps to consider when implementing teleworking
Interested in implementing telework in your business, but worried about ensuring control? Work through the following steps to help reduce any issues.
- Define your teleworking policy - this needs to provide clear guidelines of what is acceptable and what is not. Consider things such as; designated location, expected hours of work, coming into the office for meetings or work, expectations around child, pet and elderly care. Be clear about what employees need to be able to work from home, such as a dedicated work space, speed of internet access, phone, computer specifications and software (if not company provided). Set expectations around contactability and confirm how they employee or business can end the telework agreement if required. Read 'Want to make Telework - work?' for more information.
- Define eligibility - determine who will be eligible and what the criteria is. For example, what roles will it apply to, will you consider seniority or previous performance reviews? What characteristics must an employee display that will make them eligible? How long must they work for your organisation before it becomes an option (employees should see teleworking as a benefit that is earned, not given)? Make sure you define eligibility in such a way that telework can be offered fairly without discrimination.
- Determine your measurements - how will you track and measure performance of your teleworking staff (e.g. goal setting and feedback, timesheets, regular scheduled meetings)? Make sure you have clear quantitative metrics to measure performance (this applies to all staff but is especially important for teleworking employees). How will you ensure teleworking is working for your business? What will be the outcomes of poor performance?
- Train managers and teleworkers - managers need to communicate proactively since they won’t be ‘bumping into staff in the coffee room’. They may need additional training on how to manage teleworking staff. Go through your telework policy, expectations/agreement. What tools are managers and staff expected to use, e.g. Skype, Google Hangouts, instant messaging. Do they need training in these? Are there any additional security measures or implications that staff need to be aware of?