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Re-spacing work.

Technology, location, contractual arrangements, and time are the four substantive components to consider when defining "telework," according to an article by Leslie Haddon and Malcolm Brynin in the journal New Technology, Work and Employment. Students of the telework phenomenon have gone from leaving technology entirely out of the definition to focus on the knowledge content of the work itself to requiring at least some use of new information and communications technology to be considered any sort of telework at all. The authors acknowledge the crucial role of technology, but suggest that different technologies do more to define the specific type of telework one might be engaged in rather than to define telework itself.

Similarly, on the factor of location, some definitions of telework refer exclusively as work in the home while other broaden out to other "remote" worksites. Again, the authors look at location as more a measure of how telework is being done, and would exclude only those who work only at a standard workplace from being engaged in some form of telework.

The main distinction in the contractual arrangements argument for defining telework is between self-employed and wage-and-salary workers, although some would distinguish between a self-employed teleworker who works for a single client and a self-employed freelancer who works for several clients. Analysts incorporating time in their definitions of telework must take into account arrangements that stretch from an occasional hour of away-from-the-office work in the evening or on a weekend to working almost exclusively from a home or mobile work space.

In any case, in the six countries Haddon and Brynin studied, working at the standard workplace is by far the most common arrangement, followed by what they call "mobile users"--workers including outside sale and transportation workers--who use a mobile phone but not any of the other advanced technologies. Old-fashioned home-based workers who do not use computers, the internet, or a mobile telephone come in third in Britain, Italy, Germany and Bulgaria, while personal-computer-using homeworkers are third in Israel and Norway. The oft-depicted internet-enabled homeworker is generally in the smallest definitional class.

A case study by Susan Halford of the impacts of that more uncommon arrangement--working from home using a broadband-enabled personal computer for some part of the workweek--appears within the same issue of New Technology, Work and Employment. While she acknowledges that studies have found negative outcomes of homeworking by full-timers or the self-employed, her own study concludes that having a hybrid home-workplace arrangement was generally evaluated positively by both management and employees.
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Title Annotation:Precis
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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