Telecommuting

Discussion

People telecommute when they link up with their main workplace by telecommunications, eg the internet, rather than having to commute there bodily. People can telecommute from home, for from nearby telecommuting centres.

Telecommuting Centers

Telecommuting centres (telecentres) allow people to work at an office near their home, rather than having to commute daily to a distant office by motorised transport.

Ideally there would be telecommuting centre in every urban centre, and within walking distance of most homes.

Telecommuting centres provide computer workstations and other office facilities such as printers and meeting rooms which can be used by workers from different organisations. In contrast to working from home, it provides a professional atmosphere conducive to performance, and facilitates sharing of ideas between workers from a variety of specialisations.

Telecentres complement main offices where workers in the same specialisation meet, work side-by-side, and exchange ideas.

Government telecentres might help break down government "silos", by facilitating sharing of ideas and concerns across department boundaries, especially if a government unit based at each telecentre was given responsibility for a number of government functions in its local area.

Readings

Penrith Telecentre

Roads and Traffic Authority, NSW

A telecentre can provide a cost effective alternate office facility to provide a viable alternative to working from home.

Teledesks at Penrith are booked electronically by the telecentre users, and there is no support staff to assist in the day to day operations at the telecentre.

What Happened to Telework?

Monika Merkes, PC Update, April 2001

Telework has been made possible by new technologies that enable people to work anywhere, anytime and in virtual teams - even in virtual global teams. It implies working at home, away from an employer's place of business, and using information technology such as computers, the Internet, email, fax and telephones. Telework also refers to neighbourhood centres which are occupied by employees from more than one organisation, and to mobile workers. Telework is a flexible work arrangement which is sometimes used by employers to attract and keep employees.

Teleworking

TravelSmart Victoria

Teleworking is a flexible employment opportunity enabling people to work from home, either on a full-time or part-time basis. Teleworkers spend less time travelling, save money on travel costs (petrol, bus fares etc) and improve their productivity from fewer distractions and interruptions.

The benefits for an employer include:

  • improving your efficiency through increased productivity
  • happier and more productive employees
  • the potential to increase the ability to attract and retain valued and experienced employees
  • savings in recruitment and training costs through reduced turnover
  • develops output oriented management skills
  • potential savings on office space.

What is Telework?

United States Government - Telework

Telework-also referred to as telecommuting, flexiwork, and flexiplace-is an alternative work arrangement for employees to conduct all or some of their work away from the primary workplace. This concept can be applied to a variety of work experiences. The work location might be a residence, a telecenter, an office closer to the employee's residence, or another acceptable location. The telework schedule may be fixed or episodic.

A telecenter is one type of alternative worksite. Typically, a telecenter is a facility that houses workstations that are rented or leased by the employer. One advantage of a telecenter is that employees can work closer to home, reducing commuting time and allowing more time for family and community life. Another advantage is that telecenters often have workstations with state-of-the-art technology, docking stations, conference space, and other amenities. They provide a business-like work setting for the employee who needs to invite clients to the office. Some employees prefer to work in a telecenter rather than at home because they find the professional atmosphere conducive to effective job performance, or because their homes are not suitable for setting up a home office.

FAQs about Telecommuting

June Langhoff's Telecommuting Resource Center

Tasks that are most appropriate for telecommuting are jobs where a person often works alone, handling information such as reports, proposals, data or research. Writers, salespersons, accountants, programmers, graphic artists, researchers, engineers, architects, public relations professionals--all are prime candidates for telecommuting.

Since most telecommuters spend two to three days a week at their central office, it's easy to save project work, reading, report drafting, research and the like for the days at home and use office time for face-to-face meetings, team sessions, and use of specialized office equipment.

E-Learning in the Government Market

Jennifer Vollmer, Chief Learning Officer, September 2003

As employees are empowered with access to technology anytime, anywhere, traditional 9-to-5 office jobs are increasingly a thing of the past. Employees are spending more time out of the office working from remote locations (police, transportation, case workers, etc.) and less time in offices performing administrative functions. E-learning augments this by providing employees access to training where and when it fits their schedule [by allowing them to] partake in e-learning classes rather than traveling to off-site training academies.

Telecommuting: It's not for everyone

PC Authority, April 2000

Despite the obvious advantages associated with working at home - autonomy, the power to set your own hours, increased job satisfaction, and so on, it's still not an activity that suits everyone. Disadvantages include social isolation, loneliness, the fact that there's no longer a delineation between the home and work environments, plus lots of distractions like too many snacks and too much TV. There's also the lack of power that comes from no longer being involved in the decision-making back at head office.

Telecommuting's ground rules

Philipa Yelland, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 June 2002

Telecommuting, or cyberworking, is increasing and companies are developing detailed codes for the office you have when you don't have an office.

Martin Aungle, Dimension Data's online marketing manager, works from Mittagong, in the NSW Southern Highlands, three days a week and goes to DiData's Sydney office for the other two days.

Telecommuters [should] communicate on essential matters with co-workers and clients with the same regularity and consistency that they would if they were on-site. They should also make it clear how they can be most easily contacted.

Telecommuters [should] stay visible and networked. Telecommuters should attend regularly scheduled meetings live or by conference call, attend regular learning programs where appropriate and agreed by the service line, and keep in touch with team members informally.

Isolation undermines remote work appeal

Beilby

Professional isolation and a lack of resources have taken the shine off telecommuting for many employees in corporate Australia.

Isolation from colleagues made it difficult for some workers to motivate themselves and sometimes lead to a drop in productivity. As more people chose to work away from the office, the question of how to effectively evaluate their productivity also became a concern.

The most effective solution seems to be a hybrid arrangement where staff spend a couple of days per week at home tackling the heavy workloads and the rest of the week in the office with access to resources and interaction with workmates.

Home-based work or Teleworking

Australian Government - Workplace

For employees, the main benefit of a home-based work arrangement is the flexible working hours, which can help employees who have family commitments and other interests in combining these and work responsibilities. Other potential benefits include savings in travel costs and commuting time, and greater control over the scheduling of work hours.

For instance, an employee may be experiencing difficulties starting work at a particular time because of the drop-off times for child care combined with excessive travel time to their place of work, or a worker may have a relative needing temporary nursing care (eg for regular administration of medication).

The Internet, a Great Resource for Teleworkers

Ann Moffatt, AUUG'95 and Asia-Pacific WWW'95 Conference

In the past, one of the significant issues for teleworkers was access to information resources such as reference libraries, expert information, stock exchange/financial markets/ prices, newspapers and periodicals, social chit/chat. With the wider availability of Internet access, all these resources are now available to workers outside the enterprise. Many of these resources are now better than those in even the richest of our commercial and government enterprises only 5 years ago.

Even after careful selection, about 50% of the people 'drop out' of teleworking after 6 to 12 months. Those who remain are good, able workers who continue to telework so long as it suits them.

Today, many people see their office colleagues as their support group. Taken away from that group they simply cannot function. Someone who is gregarious and the 'heart and soul' of the office similarly has difficulty functioning outside the office environment.

Someone who has a driving ambition to be at a higher position in the enterprise and equates 'rank' with personal status rather than being content with and proud of their current achievements will, in my experience, similarly not be a happy teleworker.

If the person is 'busy' and has lots of diverse activities, seeing work as just one of those activities, but being able to successfully plan and co-ordinate between activities, then that person will have a high likelihood of success as a teleworker.

Links

Canadian Teleworkers Association

Telework Coalition

United States Government - Telework


18 February 2006