Teleworking, or telecommuting that is working across geographical and time barriers can improve your work-life balance and business results. Working from home or another place other than the regular office, is becoming the new flexible work format that anyone can apply easily, affordably and effectively with the specific tailor-made strategy.
Why to do teleworking?
Individual professionals would rather work from home than in an office because:
- They can focus better on their tasks with fewer disruptions.
- They avoid a long commute, which is more environmentally friendly and saves valuable personal time.
- They save on fuel or transit costs.
Companies allow their employees for more and more telecommuting opportunities for the following reasons:
- To promote work/life balance
- To save on real estate, office supplies, and other overhead costs
- To encourage productivity and reduce expenses associated with lost time due to disruptions
- To foster a “green” workplace culture
The expanding use of digital technologies such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers for work at home and elsewhere is rapidly transforming the traditional model of work. It can improve work-life balance, reduce commuting time, and boost productivity, but it can also potentially result in longer working hours, higher work intensity and work-home interference, according to a new joint ILO-Eurofound report released today.
A study by the Consumer Electronics Association found 37% of employed adults in the U.S. work from home at least one day a month, and a large number of them are planning to spend a good chunk of change on technology products to make it easier to telecommute. In 1980, only 2.3 percent of workers telecommuted.
In Europe, as it was highlighted in the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) (Eurofound, 2016), one of the main drivers for adopting Teleworking and flexible work arrangements in general, is improvement of the work– life balance of employees. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) enable employees to better balance their work and personal life by eliminating commuting time and/or adapting their working hours to their personal needs.
For companies, it is also a way of improving the retention of employees. For example, in Germany, a company survey on the reconciliation of work and family life finds that improved family friendliness in companies is a major driver for managers to adopt flexible working time arrangements, including telework and mobile work schemes (BMFSFJ, 2013).
Over four-fifths (80.7%) of the companies surveyed stated that family friendliness was ‘important’ or ‘quite important’. The trend is towards individual agreements in the drawing up of working time arrangements.
Nowadays, teleworking is a flexible work arrangement that enables an employee, a consultant, or a contractor, to work distantly from the employer’s location all or part of the time.
Some organizations allow regular telecommuting up to several days a week for most employees. Others decide who can use a telecommuting work schedule on a case by case basis.
Most recent statistics on teleworking in the USA show that regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 140% since 2005, nearly 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce or the self-employed. Larger companies are most likely to offer telecommuting options to most of their employees. Full-time employees are four times more likely to have work-at-home options than part-time workers (SOURCE: State of telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce, Global Workforce Analytics, 2017).
In Japan, Teleworking is promoted mainly as a tool to encourage workforce participation against workforce issues related to declining birth rates, ageing population and low employment rates among women.
In Brazil and India, public interest in Teleworking has been growing more slowly than in the countries discussed thus far. National debates about the merits and limitations of the work form have been encouraged only relatively recently in Brazil. A central driver for this debate is the growing concern about air pollution and traffic congestion in major urban areas such as São Paulo, where, according to the Brazil national study, annual average concentrations of pollutants (such as fine particulate matter and ozone) are very high and average commuting time is very long (one hour and 40 minutes).
Despite the potential positive effects of Telework on both productivity and work–life balance, this work arrangement has not been widely adopted among the European workforce. Some aspects and contextual factors might inhibit the development of Telework, such as particular work cultures or production systems in Europe and other regions of the world. For example, its effective implementation in certain work contexts might be limited by close monitoring or controlling types of supervision. One of the barriers to using Telework for improving performance is the complexity and skills needed to use ICT effectively, especially for some groups of workers. According to the Spanish contribution, 26% of SMEs report such problems.
In the UK, arguments around ‘flexible working’ have suggested that without some sort of company policy in place, there will be ICT skills gaps that employers will struggle to fill. In Sweden, a survey focused on individual performance was conducted by TNS Sifo on behalf of TDC, a company that provides IT solutions to corporations and organisations (TDC, 2015). The 1,027 participants were asked if they encountered any obstacles when working away from the office. The results show that many employees had experienced technical difficulties that hindered their work.
As technology continues to advance more and more companies are realizing the benefits of allowing employees to work remotely.
Telework provides an opportunity for the employer to save on real estate and office overhead expenses, and that employees are more productive and more satisfied.
Telework is clearly part of the European Union Strategy of Cohesion 2014-2020:
- ESF-financed actions involve ~10 million people every year and 2 moving into new employment each year
- Improving quality of education; making sure people have skills matching the market
- Social inclusion and opportunities for disadvantaged people; access to social services
Through these investments, ESF also supports transition to a greener economy, better use of digital technologies, entrepreneurship, research & innovation.
Considering the highly ambiguous effects of Telework and ICTs, we need to understand under what specific conditions both employees and employers can benefit from such work arrangements. In order to fully harness the potential of T/ICTs and improve the working conditions of employees performing such work, there is a need for training for both the employees affected and their managers on the effective use of ICT when working remotely, the potential risks, and how to effectively manage the flexibility that this work arrangement provides. The blurring of boundaries is not necessarily negative if it is well managed.
Contact us to help you develop your own teleworking program tailor made to your business needs