For those who do consider telework, here are some additional considerations that deserve some thought:
: I suspect we will discover that working from an alternative work site does not diminish an employer's responsibility for doing everything they can to provide a safe environment for its employees. The agency I work for has a safety checklist that must be signed by both the employee and the employer. On it are things to look for like wires, lighting, and environmental controls. I think this is an excellent idea & it should be accompanied by some training - perhaps a DVD that employees can take home and watch in the comfort of their home environment.
: As more and more people and organizations embrace telework, we need to keep an eye on penalties.
- On the one hand, there are penalties applied against teleworkers by those who don't believe in the program. Either supervisors or fellow employees make it difficult to apply, set up physical meetings on known telework days, or otherwise make life difficult for the teleworker.
- On the other hand, someone WILL abuse the system. Human nature is what it is. If one can surf pornography on computers, someone will surf pornography on computers in the workspace. If someone can be a slacker at home, then someone will be a slacker at home.
The questions we need to ask is what are we going to do about penalties? Answer this question before engaging in a telework program - or risk a blow up later. The most likely scenario would be an uprising from the telework nay-sayers who hold the slacker up as an example of why telework can't work. They irritate the senior decision maker enough where the senior decision maker calls for a halt to the program.
- Employees have to understand how to manage their time, set boundaries, keep good records, care for their home office environment, and communicate in new ways.
- Supervisors have to learn how to expand their virtual reach. The basics of empowering and motivating employees, rewarding, delegating, holding accountable, coordinating, etc don't change in a telework situation. The methods we use to make those things happen change.
- The Business Case
From the employer perspective, productive hours generally go up as employees spend more time working and less time commuting. Overhead will go down, but only if adjustments are made to accommodate the telework model. For example, double book offices and cubes - getting twice the amount of people in the same square footage.
This post is a companion to two additional posts on the same subject: Teleworking - A Personal Journey and Teleworking Math.