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Teleworking.

[check] This checklist provides an introduction for line managers wanting to implement teleworking in the organisation for the first time, either as a planned scheme or as an ad hoc response to individual requests.

Many people have always worked from home, but this has traditionally been in low skilled jobs. The development of new computer and telecommunications technology has opened up the opportunity for teleworking to many other workers including professional and managerial staff.

Definition

Francis Kinsman defines teleworking as remote working, or telecommuting, which entails working somewhere away from the office on either a full time or a part time basis, and communicating with it (usually) electronically, rather that commuting to it physically.

Potential advantages of teleworking

* Reducing office overheads or avoiding a move to new or larger premises.

* Making services available to customers outside standard working hours.

* Taking advantage of a ready and cheaper supply of labour in a different locality.

* Reducing the amount of time mobile workers spend in reporting to a central office.

* Basing workers nearer to clients or suppliers.

* Attracting or retaining workers with scarce skills or those with disabilities.

* Retaining trained staff who need flexible arrangements to care for dependants.

* Lowering absenteeism: teleworkers are less likely to take sick leave.

* Improving productivity. Staff are:

--fresher because they spend less time travelling

--more reliable, more loyal and likely to spend longer with the organisation

--likely to take less time off, because they can plan their personal time better.

Disadvantages of teleworking

* Staff can become socially isolated, particularly in routine or mundane jobs. They lack the stimulus of personal contact, and regular feedback for personal assessment and improvement.

* Staff can become demotivated unless there are good communications practices in place.

* New management schemes need to be devised to measure work by output and these can become mechanical.

Action checklist

1. Carry out a feasibility study

Include in the study a cost-benefit analysis. Take into account: productivity; travel; communication and training costs; administrative support requirements; and office space.

2. Decide the basis on which you will introduce teleworking

* A central policy--the option of teleworking is introduced organisation-wide through a formal policy.

* Functional reorganisation--teleworking is selected for a specific function only.

* Self-selection--the teleworkers choose themselves by proposing the arrangement or by creating the situation which leads a manager to suggest it.

* External recruitment--teleworking is introduced for a function and new staff are recruited externally.

* Upgrading mobile staff--staff already employed and mobile are equipped with information technology to allow them to work partially from home.

3. Conduct a pilot and evaluate the results

A pilot may not be needed if teleworking is introduced on an ad hoc basis for individual jobs but is essential before it is brought in throughout the organisation.

4. Decide which individual jobs are suitable for teleworking

The work must be intrinsically interesting and not too monotonous. It must be capable of being carried out without continuous face to face contact with others and of being measurable by results.

5. Select the individual teleworkers

Working from home requires special personal qualities in addition to the normal criteria for the job, including: maturity; trustworthiness; self-sufficiency and self-discipline, and good time management and communications skills. Some of these may need to be developed.

6. Prepare teleworkers and their managers

Ensure the home environment is suitable: i.e. peaceful and safe. Give clear information about how to deal with isolated working conditions. Consider workshops for new teleworkers and mentoring or shadowing schemes.

7. Put the right communications structures in place

Will email be sufficient, or do you need an additional messaging system? Are the ground rules clear on how and when the teleworker is expected to communicate?

8. Provide suitable equipment

Most equipment is normally supplied by the employer and includes: suitable desk, chair and storage facilities; telephone and dedicated line; fax and answering machine; personal computer; printer, and modem. Ensure equipment is ergonomically sound, fully compatible with systems used elsewhere in the organisation, easy to use and easily maintained. If appropriate equipment is already held by the teleworker, then arrangements should be put in place for payment for use and maintenance.

9. Ensure equipment is safeguarded

Take out a service contract on all equipment and provide access to technical helplines. Install anti-virus software and ensure teleworkers only use software supplied by the organisation and that they have effective back-up systems. Ensure the employee has insurance or arrange it.

10. Draw up a contract

Many teleworkers have permanent employee status and only need additional clauses in a standard contract which might cover: expected working hours, including any 'core time'; reporting procedures; equipment responsibilities; health and safety; and details of recoverable expenses or allowances.

11. Consider whether additional training is needed

The teleworker may need to improve generic skills, for example, keyboard skills, use of software and hardware, report writing, communications or time management.

12. Provide facilities for teleworkers on office days

Ensure that if teleworkers are required to attend the office on certain days they have access to necessary facilities: telephone; computer terminal; and personal filing. These can be shared among several teleworkers ('hot desks').

13. Set up support systems for teleworkers

Try to create a sense of belonging and that teleworkers receive organisational newsletters and publications and details of relevant training courses and social events. Mentoring may also be appropriate in some cases.

14. Set up effective management systems

Teleworkers need to be managed by results. Set up a performance measurement system if one is not already in place. Ensure teleworkers are included in staff appraisal and development systems.

15. Establish a monitoring system

Have review mechanisms in place to pick up costs and benefits and assess where adaptations are needed.

16. Arrange regular meetings

Regular meetings, every three months for example, between teleworkers and managers can provide the framework for motivation, control and review.

Dos and don'ts for effective teleworking

Do

* Be convinced of the business benefits of teleworking before it is introduced.

* Find ways of motivating and providing social contact for teleworkers whose job involves little interaction with people.

* Ensure line managers are in at least daily contact with teleworking staff.

* Provide adequate training in handling new equipment and ensure back-up services.

* Make teleworking available at all levels and within all suitable functions.

* Review the staff and the jobs open to teleworking on a regular basis.

Don't

* Consider teleworking as an alternative to childcare.

* Make assumptions about which staff will want to become teleworkers.

* Leave teleworkers isolated.

Useful reading

Moving towards the virtual workplace, Viviane Illegems and Alain Verbeke Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2003

Is teleworking sustainable : an analysis of its economic environmental and social impacts Peter James UK Centre for Economic and Environmental Development Peterborough nd

Ebusiness and workplace redesign, Paul Jackson and Reima Suomi London, Routledge, 2002

Teleworking handbook : new ways of working in the information society, 3rd ed Imogen Bertin and Alan Denbigh Telework Telecottage and Telecentre Association Kenilworth 2000

Useful addresses

Telework Association, FREEPOST CV2312, Wren, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 2BR

Tel: 0800 616008 www.tca.org.uk

OwnBase, a UK based association providing a business and social network for anyone working from home

(whether employed by an organisation or self-employed) www.ownbase.com

Thought starters

* What business objectives do you want to achieve by introducing teleworking?

* If driven by cost-savings alone what business benefits, or disadvantages, may accrue?

* Do benchmark organisations have a teleworking track record?

* If you have ever worked from home yourself what were the advantages or problems?
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Title Annotation:Checklist 027
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Human Resources, Training and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:1238
Previous Article:Introducing flexible working into your organisation.
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