Telework New Zealand

Telework strategies that benefit employers, employees and society: profiting from flexibility

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Within this page:

A comfortable office

A virtual concierge


Auto Emissions Kill

Commuting and offices are unhealthy...

Costs of commuting

Executive Works in Washington

Getting to know you

Going totally VO

Home Alone

How to run a war

Is Technology important

Is TDM any use?

Join the Club

Managing Slack

No more musical desks

Oil shortages?

Overcoming isolation

Preparing for the worst

Running on Empty

Some thoughts about teamwork

Spreading wealth

The Halo effect

The Maverick at work

The Normality Crunch

When managers say no

Where have the workers gone?

Where should I sit?

Where's the Logic?

Who pays to telework?

Who was first?

Working from near home


Commentaries and Snippets

Don't forget to check for the latest international stories...

"The time has come", the guru said, "to speak of many things. Of oil reserves, and SUVs and why we can't grow wings." -- Read the article by Jack Nilles.


The Halo effect

Dec 14th 2005, The Economist

Jeffrey Katzenberg's latest venture: videoconferencing that actually works.  Just as the firm he set up with two other Hollywood moguls was being sold to Paramount, Jeffrey Katzenberg announced a new venture: a high-end videoconferencing system developed by DreamWorks Animation in partnership with Hewlett-Packard.

In an effort to cut down on travel and boost productivity, Mr Katzenberg looked into videoconferencing in 2001 and found it clunky, unreliable and fiddly. S o he asked his boffins to devise their own system.  They teamed up with HP and the result, launched this week, is called Halo. Each Halo room costs $550,000 to create, and includes four high-definition plasma screens.  The lighting, camera angles, wall-colour, acoustics and furniture are all designed to make two Halo systems feel like a single room when linked together, and to do away with the 15 minutes of messing around usually required to set up videoconferencing gear.

HP manages the service, which costs $18,000 a room each month, and runs the high-speed network that ensures natural, delay-free conversations. "It's designed to create Œas though you were there' collaboration," says Mr Katzenberg.  Instead of travelling to his office in Britain every three weeks, he now goes every four months.  Halo is, in short, the videoconferencing equivalent of flying in the corporate jet.

DreamWorks now has nine Halo rooms, HP has 13, Advanced Micro Devices has two and PepsiCo has five.  Procter & Gamble and Novartis have also signed up.  HP hopes to sell more than 100 Halo systems next year. Users say that while previous videoconferencing equipment was rarely used, their Halo rooms are in use around the clock. Hector Ruiz, boss of AMD, says Halo has cut travel between his firm's facilities in California and Texas.  Steve Reinemund, boss of PepsiCo, says that every chief executive to whom he has shown the system has decided to buy it, too.  Indeed, chief executives are proving an unexpectedly potent marketing tool.  How appropriate that videoconferencing should be sold by word of mouth.


The Atlanta experience

A piece of news from 'the lists'

A law firm, corrections department and manufacturing company are among 13 Atlanta employers to take part in a unique telework initiative that offered free consulting services and even reimbursed employers for certain monies spent getting their telework programs off the ground.

The group behind the initiative is Clean Air Campaign, a non-profit organisation that works with Georgia companies, government and schools to help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.

In its latest telework program, Clean Air Campaign in partnership with an LA-based telework consultant provided participating companies with consulting services and additional reimbursement funds for staff time spent developing and implementing a six-month telework pilot. In return, participating companies had to commit to creating or expanding their telework programs.

As of July 2005 the program - called Telework Leadership Initiative - had spawned 1,800 new teleworkers in the Atlanta metropolitan area, Clean Air Campaign reports.  (A further 500 had started telework by April 2006.)

The group points out that employees aren't the only ones who benefit from teleworking. Employers, too, stand to gain - in particular when employees log extra hours of work time on days they telecommute.

Clean Air Campaign surveyed participants and found teleworkers save an average of 107 minutes each day they telework by not commuting - and most often that time goes right back to the employer. More than 70% of respondents said they typically use the extra time to do more work.

"The findings from this survey really dispel the myth that telework is only a benefit to employees," said Ellen Macht, executive director of Clean Air Campaign, in a statement. "In each of the 13 pilot programs, the employer reported significant bottom-line benefits, including increased productivity, improved morale and even savings on office space."

Among the program findings:

  • Teleworking improves morale. Almost 90% of teleworkers reported improved morale due to teleworking, and 80% of managers agreed that staff morale was up as a result of teleworking. More than 65% of teleworkers said they're less likely to look for another job as long as they can telework, and more than 45% of managers feel that teleworking gives the employer a competitive edge.
  • Productivity doesn't suffer. More than 80% of workers reported no problems getting their work competed while teleworking, and 74% reported an increase in their productivity. On the managers' side, 85% reported that productivity increased (by an average of about 20%) or stayed the same. In addition, 91% of managers said that work quality was not hurt by teleworking, and 52% of managers said supervising teleworkers took no more time than supervising non-teleworkers.
  • Technology is key. Participating companies invested or improved their computer technology, remote-access, and telephone systems. Companies with good remote access options found it easy to transition to a greater frequency of teleworking, according to Clean Air Campaign.
  • Execution matters. Among the lessons participating companies learned is that telework training for employees and managers makes a difference, as does selecting the right employees for teleworking and having solid management buy-in. Formalising existing programs allowed organisations to increase participation, the group says.

Perhaps the most telling finding is that all 13 participants plan to continue and expand their telework programs. Each manager, on average, plans to allow four more employees to telework. At current levels, these teleworkers will reduce more than 10 million vehicle miles from metro Atlanta roads each year, Clean Air Campaign estimates.

Telework consultant Shirazi said the Telework Leadership Initiative is the most successful telework pilot program she's seen in the U.S. today. She credits the success of the program to the resources participants received: "Much of the success is due to two things: providing a one-stop-shop approach for the creation of the programs, as well as the fact that there are better technology tools available - for less money - today."


Who was first?

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a long history of workplace innovation. In fact, it employed the first federal teleworker in the nation. Back in 1854, Clara Barton (who later founded the American Red Cross) clerked in the Patent Office. The first woman to hold such a position, she often worked from home to avoid criticism of her presence in the office.

And the USPTO is now taking the concept much further.  In 1997, the Trademark Office began an experimental telework pilot for 18 trademark attorneys. Dubbed Trademark Work at Home (TW@H), the program now includes 110 trademark attorneys who work at home from three to four days per week. This represents over 50% of the qualified pool. In July of 2001, the Patent Office launched its Work-at-Home pilot. It currently supports 318 patent attorneys working at home one day a week.  PTO's telework program has several goals, including employee retention, facilities savings and improved productivity.


Is Technology important?

Research in the United States showed that advanced technology and its usage has very little role to play in telework. Those who think telework will require expensive and complex technology are not likely to realise the benefits that the telework strategy can provide.

According to a 1994 report produced by the Telecommuting Advisory Council, a nationwide US body, only 800,000 telecommuters (8.8% of all telecommuters) used electronic mail in the course of their daily work and only 1.4 million used data file transfers on a daily basis. the same report showed that the number of telecommuters in the US rose from 7.6 million in 1993 to 9.1 million in 1994; that the average telecommuter was 37.8 years old; 86% were married; 76% were in two-income families; 42% had children under 18; 23% had children under 6; and 55% were university graduates.

These findings are of critical importance for New Zealand businesses.

Too many New Zealand managers believe that telework will need sophisticated technological solutions. With the active support of some sectors of the information technology industry, they are encouraged to consider significant IT investments as part of their telework implementation. As a result, the telework programme never gets off the ground.

The Americans appear to understand this. That 8.3 million (1994) telecommuters (91.2% of all telecommuters) in the States do not use electronic mail on a daily basis shows just how irrelevant they think the technology is.


What's Logic got to do with it?

Efficiency and effectiveness, in most cases, can not be logically deduced from the location at which the work is traditionally (or currently) performed. This might appear paradoxical at first glance but consider:

  • Is it the location of the computer server that is important? Or is it one’s ability to access the information stored on the server?
  • Is the location of the people you have to deal with important, all the time? Or is one’s ability to access the information and responses they might have, by telephone, email and, occasionally, in meetings, more important? (Are meetings as effective as they are cracked up to be or is there a better way to spread information and solicit reactions? But perhaps that’s a different story.)
  • Is the location of the physical file important? Or is your ability to work with specific information, normally contained in the file, the important issue?
  • Is the fact that you use a computer up to 60% of the time important? Could you find 40% of your working week when you do not need to use the computer? Same question; different answers?

The fact is that it is not the location of people, computer technology, or specific files and information that is important most of the time -– providing you have access to them when needed. This access is not usually guaranteed even when you are in the same location. But it is the access that is critical. In many instances, the access will be easier from a remote setting –- for a start, you tend to organise your access to the resources you need better if you are going to outside the office for any length of time.

Efficiency and effectiveness is generally deduced from the access you have to the resources you need to perform your task -– not the location of these resources.

Most of us can find 20% or more of the working week when we do not require access to the traditional resources found in an office (files, people, computers and other technology). Twenty percent of the working week is a day, a day that could more productively be spent working in another location.

So where’s the logic in travelling to town every day, every week, all year long?

Now here's a thought: "Work is some thing you do, not some place you go." It comes from the Underground Guide to Telecommuting, published in 95, and was quoted on Gil Gordon's web site recently. Logic suggests that the phrase is probably very accurate (or ought to be) and this same logic then leads to the conclusion that much of the modern work environment needs to be seriously rethought.

I am aware that logic does not always provide an absolute frame of reference. But it can lead to useful new perspectives perhaps?

And to demonstrate just how effective (or not) logic can be, it’s worth remembering how many bad ideas we’ve had over the years:

  • It was said that there would never be a demand for a telephone since we already had messengers.
  • And why would anyone want to use a photocopier? Carbon paper works perfectly well.
  • Ken Olsen (boss of computer giant DEC) once asked ‘why would anyone want to have their own?’. The boss of IBM said something similar.
  • And then there was the recording company executive who said that no-one wanted to listen to boy guitar bands anymore when asked why he didn’t sign the Beatles.

Yes, there have been many bad ideas over the years – or have there? Will telework be the next bad idea? Will it fail as badly as the Beetles did?


What's so great about normality anyway?

In their attempts to increase the profitability of their businesses, many managers apply traditional, or ‘normal’, strategies to overcome problems. Unfortunately, normal approaches don't always solve the real problem. In fact, in many cases they make it worse.

Smart, motivated employees are now critical to most businesses and it is possible to view many of the expenses of business as the direct result of attempts to make employment attractive to such employees. The crunch, however, is that these expenses only treat the symptoms and not the real problem: bright, educated employees are smart enough to realise that there are sensible alternatives to working in offices every day of the week. Furthermore, many valuable employees have dependants who require support or have given a better lifestyle a higher priority than their career.

Smart people don't enjoy 'normal', or traditional work environments

In other words the kind of employees most employers want to recruit and retain don't really want to work in normal offices, at normal hours.

Most employers react by improving the employment package, a normal reaction, but the crunch is that most improvements (e.g. the company car) will not make the office more attractive. A company car will increase the cost of doing business, require employees to sit in traffic jams (which will get worse), require parking spaces at the office, but won't make the job or the office any more attractive. It would make a lot more sense to replace the offer of a company car with the offer of a home office -– or something similar.

There are many examples of this Normality Crunch:

  • Is it normal to pay for an office so employees can spend hours in traffic jams, in the car the company is paying for, in order to get to it, just so you can see they’re earning the revenue to pay for the office, the car and the parking space for the car that doesn't go anywhere all day?
  • Is it normal to spend company profits on consultants and experiential learning courses to give employees back the motivation, initiative and sense of control they had before they came into the office environment?
  • Is it normal to become embroiled in industrial disputes over hours of work and flexible working conditions when most staff want nothing more than genuinely flexible working practices?
  • Is it normal to pay high office rents and higher salaries to attract staff to fill office space when many employees would produce more, for less money, if they didn't have to travel to the office in the first place?
  • Is it normal to pay ever higher salaries to attract staff to ever more expensive offices that were themselves designed to attract employees in the first place?

Normality can be expensive...

For many enterprises, the normal way of doing business imposes mounting costs and inconveniences on staff and company alike. Companies end up paying to remedy the problem they are paying to create. It is apparent that the normal way of doing business is no longer the smart way to do business.

  • It might be normal for an enterprise to build or lease the best office it can afford; but it is not smart to judge a company by the standard of its office building. The company’s service is much more important (and this service is often adversely affected by the demands of the office environment).
  • Similarly, it might be normal to insist on visual contact with employees before you can be sure that they are working; but it is a lot smarter to assess them on the level of service they provide. Staff sitting in offices won’t automatically mean the rent will be paid.

Note: The Normality Crunch was originally expressed by Ellen Goodman, Washington Post columnist, published in the Weekly Guardian, in the following words: "Is normality getting dressed in the clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic jams in the car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, the car, and especially, the house that you leave empty all day in order to live in it?"


Some thoughts about Teamwork

Teamwork is often cited as a major reason why telework won’t work. Is it a real problem? Of course it is. People do need to meet colleagues, discuss ideas, agree on action plans, and so on. And this still works much better in face-to-face environments. But there are three observations that could be made.

First, Professor William Schmidt (California) once wrote that telework was critical to the success of Total Quality Management (TQM) programmes. TQM often seems to involve a lot of intense meetings, brainstorming for example. Such interaction often negates the ability of people to actually do the work, to act on the decisions made. Quiet time is essential, away from the talk – and this is best gained off-site, in his opinion.

Second, what concept of team best describes what happens in your enterprise? Do your teams work like a Rugby scrum – with everyone training and playing together, all the time? Do your teams work like an orchestra, practising solo (or in smaller groups) and coming together to produce great music when required? Or do they work like a commando squad – with a common objective and action plan but totally independent individual actions, out of sight of each other most of the time?

Which form of team is the most effective? (Telework is only impossible in the first scenario.)

Third, what is the most efficient form of face-to-face contact for your teams? Totally unstructured and distracting on-going meetings, or formal gatherings with agendas, minutes, etc. The latter is generally considered the best option – and telework makes it easier. If some staff are likely to be away from the office tomorrow, today’s meeting must be effective and productive – there can be no informal follow-up (in person). This is perhaps another version of Prof. Schmidt’s comments but telework can make your internal meetings and communication systems much more effective (and less time-consuming).


Commuting and offices are unhealthy

Take a German study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found people caught in traffic are three times more likely to suffer a heart attack within one hour than those who aren't. The study, based on interviews with 691 people who'd suffered a heart attack from 1999 to 2001, found women and those over 60 at highest risk.

But get this: While heart attacks were found to be 2.6 times more common for people stuck in cars, they were 3.1 times more common for those taking public transportation, and 3.9 times

greater for cyclists. So much for biking to work.  For the BBC News article that reported it, see this editorial link.


Then there's the Oct. 19 Wall Street Journal story ("Seeing the Light About Daylight") that argues modern office buildings keep workers sunlight starved. A 2003 study of office worker performance by the California Energy Commission found exposure to daylight was consistently linked with a higher level of concentration and better short-term memory. Moreover, a 1999 study by Pacific Gas & Electric of 108 retail stores found those with skylights had 40% higher sales.  The article also cited studies proving good views increase productivity. Employees with good views processed calls 7% to 12% faster than those without, reported better health conditions and "feelings of well being," while their counterparts reported higher fatigue. Another study cited found computer programmers with good views spent 15% more time on their primary task, while those without spent 15% more time talking on the phone or to colleagues.

Last, the article cites Dutch research that found "a significant percentage of sick leave was linked to complaints about the quality of the workplace," and a healthy indoor climate lead to a 2.5% drop in absenteeism.  Of course, the idea here is teleworkers have more control over things like sunlight, views and air quality - at least those who don't work in the basement.


Auto Emissions Killing Thousands

by Julio Godoy (Published on Thursday, June 3, 2004 by

PARIS - Unrestrained consumption of fossil fuels is killing tens of thousands of people in Europe, new studies say.  In France alone automobile emissions kill up to 10,000 people per year, a report by the Agency for Health and Environmental Safety (AFSSE after its French name) says.

Studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) and by independent environmental groups in other European countries have come to similarly alarming conclusions.  The report says six to 11 percent of all lung cancer cases identified in people above 30 years of age in France are caused by automobile emissions.  This represents 1,713 deaths a year, it says.  The AFSSE estimates that seven percent of all cases of cardio- respiratory diseases are caused by automobile emissions, representing 4,876 deaths a year on present mortality averages.

The AFSSE report says such pollution kills 9,513 people a year in France.  In a report covering Austria, Switzerland and France, WHO found that some 40,000 people die every year as a result of automobile emissions or particulate matter (PM) in scientific jargon...


Home Alone


... so why are most of us still fighting our way into the office each day?

Australia had a workforce of 9 million in June 2000, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Labour Force Survey. Of the 8.6 million people at work during the week of the study, almost 7.5 million were employees, yet only 224,000 of those employees "mainly" worked at home.

Separate ABS research found that about 430,000 employees spent at least some of their working life at home in 2000 through "an agreement with their employer". A spike in 2001 saw this figure hit 555,000 but more than half of these gains were lost last year as the figure slumped to 480,000.

How many of these people could be classified as telecommuters is hard to say but less than half of them used a portable computer at home or accessed their employer's computer system.

So in this land of the laid-back lifestyle, why have fewer than 250,000 of Australia's 9 million workers embraced the dream of telecommuting? ...

This useful article goes on to discuss a number of the issues associated with telework, and to provide a couple of case studies.


Working from Near Home: you too can have it all

- A personal view from Stephen J Bradley, SPACEforBUSINESS Consulting

Synopsis: What is behind our desire to work from home? What do we really mean by home? Can we get control of our work-life balance and yet avoid isolation?  [This article provides an introduction to one form of telecentre.  We have a great deal more information on this subject and can help you set up your pilot.]

Amongst several recent surveys on work-life issues, the 4th Annual Quality of Working Life Report produced by The Institute of Management and UMIST showed evidence of mounting resistance by UK managers to "long hours culture". 32% of the respondees considered home as being more important than work, compared with 25% back in 1997. The consistent theme in attitudes to work-life balance is the desire of individuals to regain control: of time, of outlook, of personal space, etc. The most tangible distress to many is the frustration and de-humanisation through lack of control that characterises much big-city commuting.

The UK Government (Dept. for Education and Employment - DfEE) has launched a two year national initiative called The Work-Life Balance Challenge Fund. Some 20 management consultancies have been accredited to provide expert advice in the implementation of sound Work-Life Balance employment projects.

The most frequently cited negative aspect of working from home is "isolation" from colleagues, peers, and the staples of healthy communal life: exchanging news and views, receiving and giving a welcoming smile and an occasional laugh. If working from home is occasional and elective, such isolation is more likely to be positive than negative. However, isolation can become a major negative for those spending significant periods of time away from corporate offices in pursuit of a better work-life balance.

Happily, the desire for social contact in working life does not have to involve maintenance of communal bonds through real-time, face-to-face, hand-to-hand contact between people on the same payroll in the same central office. Nor, at the opposite extreme, does it require sophisticated telecommunications networking from home. There is a middle way. Pioneered by "free-agents" in liberal professions, some people have found that they can have the best of all worlds through using shared workspace near their homes. Whether corporate employee or free-agent, they can gain control of their time and space plus communal contact within shared workspace in their own neighbourhood, used as a base from which to travel or to make forays in to central corporate sites from time to time. ...


Executive Works could be key in helping Fed meet telework goals

By Toni Kistner of Network World

While it might come as a surprise to some, the Washington, D.C., area is poised to become telework central. Two mandates give it little choice, and the clock is ticking.

In the private sector, the Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG) set the pace in April 2000 by declaring that 20% of the region's workforce must engage in telework one or more days a week by 2005.

The government upped the ante soon after by passing a law.  Section 359 of the Department of Transportation appropriations bill, signed into law in October 2000, mandates that within six months "25% of the federal workforce eligible to telework do to the maximum extent possible without diminished employee performance." The percentage is to increase an additional 25% per year thereafter.

The numbers of workers involved are staggering. If you include the military and postal service, the federal government alone employees 6 million people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most, however, cite numbers in the 2 million range.  The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) puts the number at 1.7 million; 25% of which is 425,000 people.

No matter how you slice it, as we head into 2002, the goals are far from being met. At last count in 2000, an OPM survey reveals that of the 1.7 million federal employees counted, 45,298 (2.6%) teleworked (either from home or a telework center) at least one day per week.

But then again, the language is slippery. Who's eligible? And what constitutes "diminished employee performance?" And will teleworking one day per week (52 times per year) significantly impact road congestion and air pollution? Is this lip service or is the fed serious about sending workers home?

To find out what's keeping the numbers so low, the Government Accounting Office released a report in September outlining the telework barriers facing federal agencies. As expected, management concerns ranked first. Managers continue to struggle with which positions are suitable and how to ensure workers perform in a telework environment marked by limited supervision.

The problem is our traditional management philosophy, says John Stewart, CEO of Executive Works, a virtual company that's developed Office Pilot, an enterprise wide management system that's caught Washington's eye. Executive Works is founded on a new way of managing people, one that emphasizes coaching over managing and can be applied to large numbers of employees, whether they're in the office or working remotely.

"Telework will never work unless styles of management - and the mindset - changes. The truth is, people aren't being managed now," Stewart says. "If a person is competent and producing, he needs to be directed, not managed. Today, managers need to be leaders and coaches."

Briefly, Office Pilot is a Web-based, activities management system that places a "dash panel" on the bottom of workers' PC screens that helps managers and employees monitor productivity. Color coded and graphical, the system enables workers to break down and analyze their jobs into tasks, or "cycles of action" that they can prioritize, a concept that could be key to rolling out large numbers of remote workers.  Managers can view reports from the highest to the most granular levels. The system provides instant messaging and video presentation modules; e-mail integration and strategic and tactical planning, action, task and project planning modules are coming soon.

A veteran business consultant and former military man, Stewart has been courting Washington agencies and says his company is on the verge of inking big deals with Titan Systems, Computer Sciences Corporation and Franklin Covey, which will resell the product to federal agencies and private industry.

"We went to the federal government because there's a vacuum of knowledge and strong demand to get it done. Telework is coming, there's no question. And with the advent of Sept. 11, there's more interest to make it happen, but the government doesn't know how to make it happen," he says.

More than just the mindset, the fed's definition of telework needs to change, too, Stewart says, "Sending someone home once a week isn't virtual officing. We've talked to agencies about sending people home for good, and they're excited. They're reaching harder than industry and I think they're going set the pace."

If the fed does embrace Stewart's ideas and deploys Office Pilot in large numbers, it could find itself with a solution to another long standing problem - employee turnover. "There are places in the country that have competent people living there that would work for the government and do a good job at a local competitive wage," Stewart says. "If you look at all of that, you see what's been missing in telework. Companies have been trying to launch telework programs when they should be doing enterprise-wide management."


When managers say no

By Jeff Zbar

Since 1998, The Boeing Company has had a formal telework program. Almost 4,000 of the company's 198,000 employees participate worldwide. But what happens when a Boeing employee asks to telework but his manager says no?

It all falls back on the telework policy, says John Uhrich, program manager for Boeing's Virtual Office Program.

"Each organization [within Boeing] implements telework in a way that makes sense to them," Ulrich explains. "Our telework policy puts the ball back in the manager's court and allows the local team to use telework as a tool for flexibility."

Just as managers and reports have the freedom to deviate from the policy in terms of eligibility, criteria and other requirements, managers who are reticent about allowing an employee to have a telework arrangement can put the kibosh on such a request.

Even though the word of Boeing managers is golden, they still need to explain the reason for denying a telework request. If the worker's performance has been inconsistent in the office setting or projects have been delivered late, for instance, and the manager believes things won't improve in a remote environment, that's just cause.

Other legitimate reasons are based on how telework will impact the team's productivity. Will remote work negatively affect the worker's participation or involvement with the team, other employees, or internal or external customers? If an upcoming project will require a lot of face-time that could be a good reason to forestall a department telework initiative, Uhrich says.

Before requesting telework, Boeing employees are encouraged to visit the company intranet site to conduct a self-assessment.  Is the job conducive to telework? Has the employee demonstrated a track record as well as personal and professional traits that would make the manager comfortable with a less-supervised arrangement?

Managers are also encouraged to be open minded about the benefits of telework and to visit the site's "If it's not working..." page to learn about handling telework gone bad. 

"Address the issue head-on," Uhrich says. "Bottom line: If you're not comfortable with an employee teleworking for any reason, be honest about the reason. Make it a positive way to bring out performance issues and give the employee a chance to regain your trust."

(This piece was drawn from a free e-newsletter from Network World.)


Who pays to Telework?

By Jeff Zbar, a Network World columnist.  (As many will not have seen Jeff's writing, we reprint this article as a free service.  For more information please go to
Executives have heard for years how telework can cut a company's expenses. Real estate and infrastructure costs drop as the need for offices, phone lines, utilities and even support staff is diminished as workers are sent home to work.

But does that mean the company can send teleworkers home to fend for themselves?

Siemens Enterprise Networks realized early on that dispatching its workforce to home offices required a sizeable investment to ensure the workers were productive and professional - even when not in a corporate work environment.

Several years ago, when Siemens sent 100 of its employees home to telework full time, the company bankrolled much of the cost.  It provided a Dell Latitude laptop computer, a Hewlett-Packard multifunction fax, printer, scanner and copier, a shredder for security, and a Siemens Gigaset desktop phone with accompanying cordless phone.

Teleworkers were given a $300 allowance for a desk of each worker's choosing, and Siemens shipped to each residence an ergonomic chair, says Janice Serendi, quality systems representative for Vista (or Virtual Implementation Support Team Advantage), a group of project managers and software designers who remotely manage projects.

If they need light in the workspace, employees could purchase and expense back a work lamp. Then as now, teleworkers can expense any supplies they need on an ongoing basis, and they receive $50 per month for utilities such as electric and heating fuel tacked onto their paychecks, Serendi says.

Then as now, employees are reimbursed for the cost of a dedicated business line as well as any long-distance business calls made on the private line, and their Internet connection - whether it's a dial-up, ISDN, DSL or cable modem. If they need a cellular phone, they get a company discount through provider Verizon Wireless. Again, costs are expensed back to the company, approved by management, and the amount is added to the teleworker's paycheck.

To ensure the computer and network access remain safe, employees are provided firewalls and antivirus software, and can visit corporate offices for courses on a variety of software applications. Every 2 years, teleworkers receive new laptops as part of a companywide technology replacement program.

In most instances, the employer provides the tools for telework, says telework consultant Gil Gordon. They're no different than traditional office hardware; they're just located in a worker's home office. In some cases, employers can let workers take furniture scheduled for replacement, or computer hardware from the office itself - especially if the worker is headed home to work full-time and will no longer need an in-office PC.

"It's viewed as providing the tools of the workplace wherever it happens to be," Gordon says.

Anything else is up to the employee, Serendi says. Family members are not permitted to access the Siemens network, Internet connection or laptop. Serendi's husband, for example, has another computer in the home equipped with its own Internet access.

The benefits to Siemens come from the professionalism of its workers, Serendi says. Having the company foot the cost for telework tools helps the workers feel the company takes the arrangement seriously. Workers can focus on serving their clients and customers, without the concerns of an entrepreneur or business owner who must justify expenses that usually are the employer's responsibility.

"I thought this was great that this wasn't going to cost me anything out of my pocket. Most [employees] feel this is a very fair allowance," says Serendi, who has used this largess to equip her home office in Connecticut. "I don't see anything else that the company could do for us."

From a Network World email news service

Jeff Zbar is an author and speaker on telework, free agency, and small or home office (SOHO) issues. His books include Safe@Home: Seven Keys to Home Office Security (FirstPublish, 2001) and Your Profitable Home Business Made E-Z (Made E-Z Products, 2000). Jeff works from home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Questions or comments? Write him at


Join the Club: The sweatshop days are ending

13.07.2001 -- The Independent: (also at
For many the workplace is no longer a single location, nor work a single function. Work is what you have to do and the workplace is wherever you happen to be.

The majority of people still travel to a specific place, a factory, an office, a hospital or a shop, do their work and then go home. But the tiny minority of people who carried their work about with them, plumbers, commercial travellers, authors, actors, is now a substantial minority.

Add in those that go to a single workplace, but also work at home or on the road, and perhaps a quarter of the workforce is doing some work outside the normal workplace.

The shift in work patterns is partly a function of technology, but it also reflects the changing nature of work and company organisation, the outsourcing, the greater use of part-timers and freelancers.

The development of office space will be confined by the fact that the most expensive real estate of a city is devoted to buildings that are used for only about 10 hours a day.

Looking ahead, the only sensible assumption is that these trends will intensify, so what are the implications for the workplace? One shift, spotted by author Charles Handy, is that the office is becoming a club.

The point about a club is not that people go to meet each other, but that space is functional, not personal. There is a reading room, a restaurant and a games room, but no offices for particular members.

Over the past five years, thanks mostly to the internet, a second shift has taken place, the use of the home as a factory.

Now anyone with a PC can gather as much information as a multinational with a research department, and the demand for creative rather than production skills means that more work can be done at home.

But most still need the sense of community that "going out to work" gives and employers are finding that creating efficient and pleasant workplaces helps in recruiting and staff retention, so when the workplace is not actually a club, it needs to pretend that it is.

Go back five years and firms were experimenting with offices that had no personal space. The most successful example was Anderson Consulting, now Accenture. Its pioneering offices are like expensive hotels: there is a concierge, a cafe and an entertainment area for clients. Staff book rooms for meeting or working by the day or half-day. All space is functional, not personal. Service and technology substitute for floor space.

The full "hotel model" has not been widely imitated, but elements are being incorporated into offices.

Personal space is continuing to be squeezed, but services are being added. Instead of offices being designed to impress the chairman's visitors, they are being designed to improve staff retention.

How might this trend develop? First, workplaces will be designed with the view that many workers will be occasional visitors: they will be there for maybe a couple of days a week, not the whole time. So the proportion of functional space will rise, relative to personal space.

Second, companies will make their workspace available to non-staff: freelancers, employees of customers and suppliers, day-workers and so on. By providing a club atmosphere, they will seek to bind in the loyalty of these associated workers.

Third, workspaces will become nicer. It is cheaper to make people happy by creating an efficient and friendly workspace, than by paying them more.

Fourth, expect the new communications technologies to continue to be substituted for space: the cost of technology is coming down, and the cost of space is going up. So the workplace of the future will be smaller and neater as well as nicer. Homes, by contrast, will become larger as they turn into factories as well as places to live.

And finally there will be a boom in well-located workplaces created specifically for itinerant workers. You can see this already in hotels and airport lounges: expect this trend to go much further, so that every city centre will have workplaces that anyone can pay to use, rather like upmarket internet cafes.


Getting to know you

By Jeff Zbar

As a full-time, first-time teleworker and newly hired senior executive at First Virtual Communications, Bob Romano's arrival last October could have been a disaster.

Instead, he turned to tools that are fast becoming commonplace in the corporate and home office environments - video conferencing and instant messaging.

From the start, Romano was breaking an important rule of telework. He was a newcomer to the company tasked with managing an established team of 45 workers scattered in offices in Santa Clara, Nashua, N.H., Berkshire, England, and La Gaude, France.

And there was Romano, working remotely from his home in Austin, Texas. "I hadn't created any interpersonal relationships yet," he recalls.

To remedy the situation, Romano traveled to both U.S. locations and spent several weeks getting to know his team, professionally and socially. When he returned to Austin, Romano turned to videoconferencing, instant messaging and e-mail to maintain those relationships.

It certainly helped that First Virtual's product line of video conferencing and collaboration software is designed to serve the remote worker. In fact, with seven years spent working in the video conferencing sector, Romano convinced company executives that the tools would help keep his team connected and make telework work.

Romano says he holds videoconferences as frequently as other execs make phone calls. Using First Virtual's Click to Meet Web-based media conferencing and collaboration product, he brainstorms ideas with his team, and sketches out new ideas and thoughts on the application's white board, all the while eyeing people's reactions. Recently, he instant messaged a staffer he caught daydreaming during a meeting. "It's like nudging people in a meeting to stay awake," he jokes.

One recent weekday, Romano found himself at his home office desk, participating in two simultaneous videoconferences on separate computer monitors. He had six instant messaging chats going at once, one of which was a fellow executive pinging Romano to answer the phone because it was the exec calling. Just then, the FedEx guy - another contact in the remote work environment - dropped by with a package from the team.

"I realized how connected we can be. There's unprecedented access," he says. "Without all these tools, I'd be way more inclined to fly up and meet the team."

Romano has even relied on video conferencing to interview and hire two new employees. After a month, he's still not met them in person. "But I honestly feel like I know them because we've spent a lot of time on video together," he says.

Even so, video conferencing and instant messaging are no panacea, says Romano, who still spends at least a week each month in the company's two U.S. offices. At 47, Romano was raised on management by walking around, impromptu lunches with the staff, and happenstance meetings in the hallways, lunchroom or offices. Nothing, he says, replaces in-office face-time. But with three adolescent kids, Romano wants his at-home time. And the technology lets him have both.


Going totally VO

By Jeff Zbar

After six years as a dedicated teleworker, Joe Roitz feels like he's been assimilated by the Internet.

AT&T's telework director works with colleagues and clients he's never met, holds conversations and meetings in a digital forum, and forges friendships without uttering a sound - save for the ping of an in-bound e-mail.

And Roitz wouldn't have it any other way.

"Virtual work is such a powerful way to run an enterprise," he says. "You don't have all these visual perceptions to get in the way. You remove that lens and bias and you're left with pure knowledge."

A decade ago, a blizzard in Atlanta made Roitz's commute impossible, and introduced him to telework. A few years later, he moved his office home full time when his wife took a job in Dallas. Since, he's earned his MBA online from the University of Phoenix, and shares digital images of his arrowhead collections with other enthusiasts on the Web.

These days, from his home in rural Roland, Ark., Roitz reports to home-based managers near AT&T offices in Atlanta and New Jersey, and works with 50 co-workers to manage the company's telework program. Moreover, he savors the free time he spends with his wife and 6-year old son.

A self-described e-mail junkie who considers instant messaging intrusive, Roitz says the Internet helps him increase productivity. During Web casts, some AT&T staffers might lament the buffering's lag-time. But Roitz and others laud the chance to participate in the Web cast if it means they can skip a trip to the office.

"They don't need to walk away from their desks. People who are VO [virtually officed] can see the viewgraphs and hear the speaker, and they can do their e-mail or other things," he adds.

Such increased productivity translates into bottom line savings. AT&T's recent employee survey of 1,500 teleworkers showed that on telework days, employees produce 10% more work - resulting in $65 million in increased output from those workers alone.

Still, Roitz acknowledges the notion of "disappearing in the Web" leaves some uncomfortable. But not him. "People know about your kids and where you live like you sit next to them.

That's not to say [telework] has to be full-time and consume our lives. But when it works well, sometimes you don't notice until you're assimilated."


Managing slack

By Melissa Shaw

No one likes a control freak, not to mention someone who micromanages. Yet if you asked those micromanagers why they grip their staffs so tightly, they would probably say it had to do with ensuring productivity. I can hear it now, "If I left them to their own devices, nothing would get done."

I think we've all seen this approach backfire time and time again. There is a big difference between setting, encouraging and enforcing goals and accountability, and standing over employees' shoulders while they work. An interesting article in our recent You Issue examines the concept of allowing employees to build slack time into their workdays to improve efficiency.

Tom DeMarco, author of "Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency," says managers can be more effective when they give staffers the freedom to budget their own time and approach to solving a problem. If you don't give your employees any ownership in their work or workday, they're not going to be as engaged or invested in the end product.

Bottom line: Don't manage your folks out of a fast-food rulebook, where everything has to be performed a certain way in a specific time period with a uniform result.

"Instead of the directed obsession with elimination of all slack - that's what we've been seeing during the past few years in the interests of efficiency - it's now time to ease up and give people enough slack to be able to change. In this era of sea change, the ability to turn on a dime is worth a lot more than that last little bit of efficiency," DeMarco says.

While this makes sense, it can be very hard to do. We managers are responsible for the bottom line of our departments and it is hard to relinquish control of something that will affect you. But taking these risks can yield gains you didn't foresee. First, you're going to have happier employees. They will be less stressed out working under an unrelenting eye and will enjoy their jobs more. People who didn't like your style of management will enjoy this newfound freedom and your turnover is reduced. Second, your staff may discover better ways of doing things. I know it's hard to believe, but our way of getting from Point A to B may not be the best. Left to their own devices, your staff could discover efficiencies and savings you didn't know existed. Lastly, you will be less stressed-out. Instead of worrying about a million details and rushing around trying to personally supervise everyone, you can eventually relax knowing your staff is on top of the to-dos. You, in turn, can focus on what every manager should: planning and strategizing for upcoming projects. And as I unrelentingly write, planning is the key to true efficiency.


Where should I sit?

By Jeff Zbar

When Cigna HealthCare began dispersing workers from its corporate office, executives soon realized the workers often had no place to work when they occasionally returned.

In the past few years, Cigna has learned that home is not the only office for teleworkers. Sometimes, teleworkers need an office at the office - even if it's not their own.

Some 2,100 of the company's 40,000 U.S. employees are formal members of the firm's E*Work program. E*Workers give up personal office space to work from home full-time, or share on-site space with a colleague. Another 8,000 Cigna employees telework informally, retaining their offices and working remotely as needed.

But on days remote workers would head into a corporate office for meetings or presentations, they often found themselves scrambling for a random desk to make phone calls or get some reading or computer work done between meetings.

In Phoenix, as with a dozen other U.S. cities, the company set out to create suitable workspace for remote workers, says Lynne Kelley-Lewicki, director of Integrated Workscape Strategies with Cigna in Bloomfield, Conn.

When a tenant in Cigna's Phoenix office building vacated 1,700 square feet of office space, Cigna took over the space with plans to launch a pilot program. Cigna executives in Kelley-Lewicki's department collaborated with E*Work team members, considering teleworkers' work patterns, spatial and technology needs, and team working requirements.

The E*Work Touchdown Site was designed to serve a variety of needs; it includes a reading and concentration area, a computer room, a phone/work area, and a small training or collaborative area. Wheeled furniture fosters collaboration, equipped with desktop computers and network connections for workers with laptops. A storage room holds office supplies, and workers store their belongings in one of 36 lockers. They bring their own padlocks and remove their belongings at day's end.

"We recreated the full infrastructure for the employee," Kelley-Lewicki says.

In May, Cigna unveiled the Touchdown Site. To enter, an employee logs on to the "Phxmesa" coded directory in the company's Outlook program, which has been altered to double as a reservations system. Comments provide a text description of the space available, including Group Work, Individual Work, Small Tables or Team Area. Based on their needs, employees reserve the appropriate space, whether it be for team meetings and collaboration, private computer time, or just a quiet space to work between on-site meetings.

The site is open to all Cigna employees, though remote workers take priority. All space is reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.

Cigna says the Phoenix site will be joined by a dozen similar facilities in New England, South Carolina, Chicago, Denver and Midwest - markets where office space is at a premium. While most Cigna offices have teleworkers, new centers will be developed as needed in new E*Work markets.

"Workers don't want random seats," Kelley-Lewicki says. "They want something fixed, safe and productive. This creates a much more flexible work environment."


No more musical desks

By Jeff Zbar

As a full-time teleworker, Sue Mitchell was never more of a nomad than on the days she went to the corporate office.

To become permanently home-based, project manager Mitchell gave up her office at Cigna HealthCare of Arizona in Phoenix. But when she visited the office for a day-long meeting or presentation and needed to check messages or work on a project, she had to compete with other teleworkers for workspace.

"I had to scramble to find a desk to work from, and carry my computer and belongings with me from meeting to meeting," Mitchell says.

Is this any way to welcome teleworkers back into the corporate office? Many companies laud the real estate and productivity gains that come with sending employees home to work full time. But what about when they come back? Many are left to ferret out vacant cubes, all the while praying it's got a working phone and LAN connection. What's more, full-time off-site workers often lose touch with the social network. No on-site workspace, no camaraderie.

Some innovate companies are creating hotels or permanent telework centers to serve their remote workers when they return. Not only do companies find teleworkers more productive, workers find they retain ties to the corporate office and colleagues - a bond which doesn't come if their only desk is at home.

In May, Cigna debuted its Phoenix E*Work Touchdown Site, an office suite designed to serve a variety of needs for the office's 44 teleworkers. Now, when Mitchell knows she'll be on site, she logs on to the "Phxmesa" coded directory in the company's Outlook program to reserve a space. Usually, she just needs an individual workspace to plug in her laptop and make a few calls. There are collaborative and group areas, and a handful of desktop computers to work on if she leaves her laptop at home.

The site is more than just a place to work. Mitchell's rarely alone at the site. Once she's stashed her sweater and purse in one of 36 lockers and has logged on to the company network, Mitchell can catch up with other teleworkers sharing the facility.

Her twice weekly visits to the center have created a social network that serves as a great remedy for the isolation and occasional loneliness of the home office. "I thought it was going to have a bunch of cubes," she admits. "But it's so much more than that."

The site even helps Mitchell's team and manager. Before the Touchdown Site, tracking down Mitchell was a happenstance affair, admits Susan Cordier, Mitchell's manager and director of provider services. Mitchell had shared a cube with a co-worker - splitting her week between the home office and corporate office. That meant Cordier had to know Mitchell's weekly schedule to track her down.

"Now I know Sue will be accessible and productive because she has a space," Cordier says.


How to run a war

From Gil Gordon:

"The next time a manager tells you remote management won’t work ... you might remind that person that U.S. Army General Tommy Franks is running the war in Afghanistan from his headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

"I heard him interviewed on NPR this morning and he discussed this somewhat unusual way to run a war. He said that fifteen or twenty years ago something like this would never have been thought possible, and now it is.

"He benefits from having a full war room next to his office with real-time data displays and live video feeds that are updated at least once per minute, he said. (Gee, I bet HE doesn't have problems with his dial-up connection!)

"This kind of remote management - and it is exactly that, as opposed to remote work (in this case being done by his subordinate officers and troops, of course) really makes the complaints we all hear about "I can't tell what they're doing if I'm not there" seem pretty silly.

"So, the next time you hear a manager say that he/she can't figure out how to tell that an accountant or programmer, for example, is doing the job remotely, remind that person about Gen. Franks."


Preparing for the worst

A number of recent articles in United States publications have referred to the problems created by wintry weather.  Snow and ice have blocked roads and made it extremely difficult for commuters.  The obvious solution for many such commuters (and their employers) has been telework (or telecommuting).

Of course, bad weather isn't the only threat businesses face.  Terrorist attacks, outbreaks of SARS or other viruses, forest fires and traffic interruptions have all driven employers to make more use of flexible work practices.  Companies as diverse as accountants, lawyers, Intel, Nike, stock-brokers, and many more have all coped with these risks through smart application of telework.  Even when it's not accepted practice for staff in normal conditions, there will still be a contingency plan that accepts that telework is a useful alternative to life-threatening or extremely long commutes.

In New Zealand, we are bedevilled by power cuts, traffic interruptions, snow and ice (in the south), floods, and much more.  And of course, the major threats are yet to manifest themselves -- when is Wellington's next earthquake due?  Although some companies have taken the obvious steps of allowing telework or at least ensuring that it is possible, many other organisations are at serious risk.

Without an effective business continuity plan -- one that includes telework -- business could suffer.  And of course it would be very wise to test the telework arrangements to make sure that they work -- before they are needed.

And just to show that bad weather isn't the only threat that can be overcome with a telework arrangement:


Spread the wealth with telecommuting

Dirk De Young. Editor, The Business Journal (Minnesota)

Allow me to propose an idea that might provide one way for Greater Minnesota to stay in the game economically in the 21st century. It's no secret that much of rural Minnesota is struggling, as economic power has centralized in the Twin Cities and some regional cities such as St. Cloud and Rochester.

One reason, as pointed out in an insightful editorial in the Star Tribune ("Metro-outstate gap/Aim for better higher-ed results," published Dec. 21), is that the brightest high-school graduates in rural Minnesota leave, usually for the Twin Cities, to find high-paying jobs as well as richer social and cultural lives. Unfortunately, they leave huge demographic holes in their hometowns.

Greater Minnesota communities have responded to their plight by asking government for help with economic development tools (tax increment financing, deals with big employers to open facilities outstate, worker training, and now JOBZ zones) or the placement of state facilities (colleges, prisons, state parks, etc.).

Here's another idea: Spread the Twin Cities' wealth one employee at a time. State and rural leaders -- with the addition of Twin Cities businesses -- should explore the idea of boosting the trend of telecommuting from rural Minnesota. That ongoing trend, which is adding growth to some rural communities, appears to be led mostly by self-employed or semi-retired professionals. What if the public and private sector collaborated to encourage the rank and file to do it as well, as long as telecommuting is appropriate for the job?

There's no doubt that thousands of Twin Citians are attracted to rural life, if only they could take their good-paying jobs up north with them. But what if they could take their paychecks with them, then help the rural economy by spending their paychecks there?

There would be other benefits (happier employees, the addition of human capital to rural areas), and costs as well (broadband Internet, temporary lodging for meetings in the Cities). But it might be worth thinking about.


Overcoming isolation

Recent research from the UK Centre for Economic and Environmental Development concluded that working from home had many benefits -- for both employers and employees.  It also mentioned a possible problem: isolation and loneliness.  This is a real problem in many instances -- but there are a number of solutions.

Sound telework programmes confront this problem head on.  Employers recognise the need for ongoing social contact and ensure that social space is available at the office.  They also encourage social interaction or at least tolerate it.  Supervisors are encouraged to organise more regular social occasions or company outings for the days that teleworkers will be in the traditional office and social club secretaries actively keep teleworkers in the loop with regular emails and updates to the company intranet.

In many companies, the number of days per week that telework is permitted is limited.  A maximum of three days out of the office is the norm.  This ensures that staff do not lose contact with the company culture and fellow work mates.  (It also ensures that supervisors and teleworkers have the opportunity to discuss work loads and other hiccups.)

Teleworking employees should also be encouraged to develop friendships outside of the office.  Such arrangements (the golf club, the gym, what ever) have been subsidised by the employer in many instances.  Such friendships can ensure that staff remain happy and continue to contribute effectively.

As with many of the other presumed problems with telework, the secret is to acknowledge the potential early and develop appropriate procedures, guidance or training -- as appropriate.  In other words, it pays to establish a clear telework policy that sets out the parameters within which telework is allowed to take place.  Ad hoc telework can create many problems but a clear policy is the key to solving them.

In the context of 'isolation', for example, the policy cover social issues as well as work ones.  It can limit the number of days teleworkers spend out of the office.  And, most importantly, it can ensure that only staff who can work on their own are allowed to telework.  Telework is never right for everyone -- those who require a higher level of social interaction might not make good teleworkers...


Costs of commuting

The Telework Consortium's first published report makes a business case for increased telework by highlighting the cost of government subsidies for northern Virginia highway and Metrorail expansion projects. For instance, for the I-66 Outside the Beltway project, which involves building new high-occupancy vehicle lanes, the report calculates the annual cost per commuter is $3,178. The point is twofold: We're spending a lot of taxpayer money on road construction, which alleviates congestion but increases vehicular emissions. It would cost a lot less to support a worker in a home office.

Think the answer is to shift more money to mass transit projects? The report also calculates the average annual subsidy cost per commuter trip for Metrorail is about $4,200, which doesn't count the cost of commuting to and from the station.

The report is trying to show the pillars of government and industry that tax money can be spent more efficiently while helping the environment - by subsidizing telework, not highways and railways.


Is TDM all it's cracked up to be?

TDM, or travel demand management, is often considered to be a cornerstone of modern regional governance but a recent discussion on a global discussion list has raised questions about its value.  What do you think?

TDM is a term that is used to cover a wide range of alternatives to travelling by a single occupancy vehicle.  It covers car-sharing, public transport, road charging, cycling, walking, tax rebates, and much more.  It also includes teleworking.  The proponents of TDM believe that it can be a cost-effective alternative to building roads.  Opponents suggest that since the roads will be necessary anyway, we may as well get on and build them now.  And so the argument continues.

A US mayor was quoted as saying that TDM wasn't worth anything; that it was a waste of resources that could better be spent on other things.  The resulting discussion brought up a number of conclusions: no single TDM initiative provides a silver bullet for our congestion and pollution worries; if a City or Regional authority does not have 'creating a better environment for residents' as part of its goals, TDM is likely to irrelevant; TDM works best as a complete package, used to manage demand; and that we have to be clear about what we are measuring and how well the TDM package is designed in order to match these measurements.

But what do you think?

Telework New Zealand tends to agree with the sentiments expressed overseas -- with two riders.  The first is that travel demand management is a bit of an oxymoron: you have to have the demand so that you can manage it.  It is perhaps smarter to talk about reduction or elimination -- and design strategies accordingly.  If we don't, demand will continue to grow. 

The second rider is that a TDM initiative that does not include telework is not a complete package.  It cannot offer a full range of travel alternatives and, thus, will not work as well as it could.  In fact, telework is arguably the most important of all the possible TDM alternative.  It is the only one that can actually reduce demand and produce revenue gains for both employers and employees.  It is also unique because, once telework has started, more and more people take up the option -- with no additional promotional expenditure. 

Telework is also the logical first step in any effective TDM initiative.  Business managers do not seek to accommodate problems, they seek to eliminate them.  Travel planners should do the same and seek to eliminate avoidable travel before accommodating the problems that are left.  There are many ways that this can be done... 


Where have the workers gone?

A recent article in Computerworld mentions that the average occupancy rate of commercial office space from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. is between 30 percent and 50 percent, according to Cornell University's International Workplace Studies Program. – so where have all the workers gone? It appears that they’ve hit the road. They’re working at home, at “touch-down” centres, at client’s premises. They’ve become, to use the jargon, ‘agile’.

Examples abound. Cigna, which has 3,500 full-time teleworkers and 7,000 casual teleworkers enrolled in its eWork program, wants employees to work wherever it's most effective for them to do their jobs, whether it's a spare bedroom or one of Cigna's "touchdown" sites.

In the first 12 months of its eWork program, which enables more than 10,000 employees to work from anywhere using all of the same IT tools they would have access to at a corporate office, Cigna saved $1,500 per person. In the second 12 months, the company saved $3,000 per worker, according to Lynne Kelley-Lewicki, director of Integrated Workscape Strategies.

At AT&T, where 17 percent of managers have no office but instead work full time from home or a customer location, real estate savings will total $35 million in 2003. Other financial benefits include $100 million in increased worker productivity and $15 million in gains resulting from improved employee retention and recruitment, according to Joseph Roitz, AT&T's telework director.

But there’s an implicit challenge in this form of work: "A higher proportion of employees is working on the fly, but the IT infrastructure at most companies is still assuming they come into the office every day," says Michael Bell, an analyst at Gartner. What IT needs to create and support is an "agile workplace," which Bell says is "all about choice, flexibility and moving accountability for where and when work gets done out of the traditional office and to the employee." Furthermore, people will spend nearly 70 percent of their time (by 2006) working in teams -- but not necessarily face to face, according to an agile-workplace study conducted by MIT and Gartner. That means deploying more collaborative technologies, such as Web-based videoconferencing, that peripatetic workers can easily and cheaply tap into, regardless of their location.
And how do you create and support an agile workplace?

First, the workplace must be viewed as an integrated whole, including IT facilities, corporate real estate, HR policies and programmes, and strategic direction. All components have to work together to create a productive and effective workplace for all employees, regardless of location.

Second, telework has to become standard operating procedure. Ad hoc telecommuting and under-the-radar work-from-home arrangements cost more money and cause a lot of headaches for employers. Telework has to become ‘the way we work round here’.

Third, look at work patterns first and the technology second. Technology only provides the tools to do the work – and it can only be effective once the work is properly understood. Processing tools are different to communication tools are different to collaboration tools. The right mix is essential and only achievable if the tasks are well understood.

Fourth, remember that one size does not fit all. Case studies can be useful, but only as examples. It does little good to copy exactly another company's best telework practices. Each organisation has its own set of work styles and its own unique culture, experts say. Consequently, each company needs to come up with its own telework strategy.

The full Computerworld article is available here.


The Maverick at work...

Ricardo Semler has always been regarded as something of a maverick -- which is not surprising.  He writes about a seven day weekend, his company (Semco) doesn't have a mission statement, headquarters, an HR department, an organisation chart, a rulebook or any written policies, and he's recently set up a school for four- and five-year olds.   Furthermore, his company recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the last time he made a decision at all.

But Semco has been growing at up to 40% per year, turns over US$273 million (up from $6.8 million, twenty years ago), and employs over 3000 people.  Such growth would be impressive in a stable environment but Semco achieves it in Brazil, one of the most volatile economies in the world.  So what's the secret?

For a start the company never plans more than six months ahead and company units decide every half-year how many people they will need, what business opportunities they will pursue, and how they will work.  Teams are formed and reformed as needed and employees must continually prove their worth to the team in order to be sure of being part of future teams.

According to Semler: "It's as free market as we can make it.  People bring their talents and we rely on their self-interest to use the company to develop themselves in any way they see fit.  IN return, they must have the self-discipline to perform... To survive here you have to get on someone's list of people they need for the next six months, and you can't do that by playing political games."

But what's this got to do with telework?

As part of Semco's constant attempts to unsettle the conventional order and unleash more flexibility and creativity, the firm's headquarters have been disbanded in favour of satellite "aitport lounge" offices dotted around Sao Paulo.  Staff no longer have fixed offices, or even fixed desks.  Says Semler: "If you don't even know where your people are, you can't possibly keep an eye on them.  All that's left to judge on is performance." 

And that, in a nutshell is the secret of successful telework arrangements -- judging staff on performance.

The full text of this article is available at The Observer.


Running on Empty

Have you wondered why telework could be important the whole community?  Check out this site.

In summary, this document reveals that within ten years:

  • Oil extraction from wells will be physically unable to meet global demand (the evidence is from the oil industry itself)

  • Alternative energy sources like nuclear and natural gas will fall far short of compensating for expected shortages of oil. There is simply not enough time to convert over to them.

  • Massive disruptions to transportation and the economy are expected around 2010 when the final peak of production of all petroleum liquids (globally) is followed by decline.

Most significant effects:

  • Gradual, permanent cut-off of fuel for transport and for industrial machinery. Global trade will greatly decline.

  • Agriculture (food production) depends heavily on fertilizers and chemicals made from oil.

  • Shortages of 500,000 other goods made from oil.

  • Therefore, reduction of virtually all business and government activity.

A worrying scenario?  See if you can fault the author's reasoning.


Making yourself comfortable

Furniture maker La-Z-Boy joined forces with Microsoft to produce an Internet-ready recliner. Dubbed the Explorer, the comfy e-cliner comes with a folding table equipped with a wireless keyboard for WebTV use. The chair is also wired with a data adapter, a 110-volt electric outlet and a phone line. And if that isn't laid-back enough for you, a firm in Finland is developing a videoconferencing system built into a sauna. Media Tampere will produce a four-person sauna equipped with TV camera, microphone and computer. Could be a trendsetter -- as long as the camera angle stays high.


Meet Anna Morris, the world's first virtual concierge

Guests at the Westin Hotel in Santa Clara, California, do a double-take when a photo on the wall starts talking to them. What looks like a typical portrait is actually a life-size video image of Anna Morris, the hotel's concierge.

Morris works from her home office in Antioch, 75 miles northeast of Santa Clara, and commutes to work via a videoconferencing system. "Sometimes my customers don't know if I'm real or available for service," she says. "They just don't expect a video to talk to them. But they get over it really quick."

Though she has been a concierge at the Westin since 1994, it wasn't until her family moved to Antioch in 1998 in search of affordable housing that she started to think about changing jobs. Her grueling commute took over four hours round-trip on a good day. Morris and her husband left their home at 4:30 a.m. and rarely returned before 8 p.m. "We were leaving in the dark and coming home in the dark," Morris said. "We had literally no family life."

Enter teleworking.

In a chance conversation with a guest who worked for a multimedia communication firm, Morris learned that interactive video was a possible solution to her nightmare commute. So she drew up a plan and presented it to her supervisor, shortly before taking maternity leave. He approved it.

 Update:  It looks as though Anna has now moved to the Hyatt (or the Westin has become the Hyatt...)


Bevis England, Telework New Zealand,  Phone: +64-9-817 8024 or +64-27-494 0700  Skype: bevis.england

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