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Teleworking.

Introduction

Homeworkers have traditionally been employed in low skilled jobs, but the development of computer and telecommunications technology has opened up opportunities for teleworking to many other workers, including professional and managerial staff.

The potential benefits of teleworking include:

* the reduction of overheads and expenditure on office premises

* less time spent travelling to and from the workplace

* greater flexibility for employees who need to care for dependents or have disabilities

* better motivation and morale for employees who can manage their own schedule

* lower absenteeism

* the opportunity to employ well-qualified staff who do not live locally

* the retention and attraction of staff whose skills are in scarce supply

* improved productivity.

If these benefits are to be realised, teleworking needs to be carefully managed. This checklist is designed to help line managers who want to introduce teleworking for the first time, either as a planned scheme or as an ad hoc response to individual requests.

National Occupational Standards for Management and Leadership

This checklist has relevance to the following standards:

D: Working with people, unit4

Definition

Teleworking, or telecommuting, involves employees working away from the employer's premises on a full- or part-time basis for all or a substantial part of working hours, either at home or an alternative site such as a telecentre or telecottage. Communication with the organisation is carried out mainly electronically through the use of telecommunications and computer equipment.

Action checklist

1. Carry out a feasibility study

Include a cost-benefit analysis in your study, taking productivity, travel arrangements, communication and training costs, administrative support requirements and office space into account.

2. Decide the basis on which you will introduce teleworking

* A central policy--teleworking is introduced as an organisation-wide option through a formal policy.

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

* Self-selection--the teleworkers make their own choice 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 of mobile staff--staff who are already mobile and equipped with information technology which will 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 specific 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 running workshops for new teleworkers and the use of 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; modem and printer. 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 to pay 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 will 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 their 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 the necessary facilities: telephone; computer terminal; and personal filing. These can be shared among several teleworkers ('hot desks').

13. Set up support systems for teleworkers

Teleworkers on their own at home, may miss day to day personal contact, become socially isolated and lose motivation. Try to create a sense of belonging and ensure that teleworkers receive organisational newsletters and details of training courses and social events. Regular meetings, every three months for example, between teleworkers and managers can provide a framework for motivation, control and review.

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. Make sure that 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 changes are needed.

How not to manage teleworking

Don't:

* regard teleworking as an alternative to childcare

* make assumptions about which employees will want to become teleworkers

* fail to communicate regularly with teleworkers

* allow teleworkers to become isolated.

Additional resources

Books

Work well from home: how to run a successful home office

London: Bloomsbury, 2005

The teleworking handbook, 4th ed., Alan Denbigh and Imogen Bertin

London: A and C Black: 2003

Moving towards the virtual workplace, Viviane Illegems and Alain Verbeke

Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2003

Ebusiness and workplace redesign, Paul Jackson and Reima Suomi

London: Routledge, 2002

This is a selection of books available for loan to members from the Management Information Centre. More information at: www.managers.org.uk/mic

Journal articles

Should employers keep their distance from teleworking?

Workplace Report, May 2006, no36, pp17-19

An update on telecommuting review and prospects for emerging issues, William Rick Crandall and Longge Gao

SAM Advanced Management Journal, summer 2005, vol 70 no 3, pp30-37

Homeworking

IDS HR Studies, Mar 2005, no 793, whole issue

This is a selection of journal articles available from the Management Information Centre. More information at: www.managers.org.uk/mic

Related checklist

Moving the Virtual Organisation Forward (077)

Internet resources

Homeworking.co.uk: Advice for individual homeworkers and employers.

www.homeworking.co.uk

Telecommuting: Information and advice from Gil Gordon Associates.

www.gilgordon.com

Organisations

Telework Association, FREEPOST, CV232312 WREN, Kenilworth Warwickshire

CV8 2BR

Tel: 0800 616008 www.tca.org.uk

OwnBase, Birchwood, Hill Road South, Frodsham, Helsby, Cheshire WA6 9PT

Email: info@ownbase.com www.ownbase.com
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Title Annotation:Checklist 027
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: People Management
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Words:1174
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