The 'Myth Attack'
Responding to the
'knee jerk reactions' ...
"Telework means working from home."
can involve the home, but it can also be based in ‘telecentres’, shared
offices and other locations. To concentrate purely on the home environment
is to side-track and distort the argument. Even when the home is involved,
there is a world of difference between working from home full time and working
home for a day or two every week.
"Telework means expensive technology and
Mercury (the British telecommunications firm) began promoting telework it
said a teleworker needs only a telephone and a pencil and paper. Being a
bit more realistic, a teleworker needs the ‘tools of their trade’ and
appropriate communication solutions. These will vary on a case-by-case
"Telework is revolutionary and abnormal."
WRONG Before the
job requirements of the time made it essential that employees worked in
offices and crowded into cities, everyone worked in their homes. Telework
is evolutionary, building on changes in both society and work and
capitalising on advances in technology and management. When it comes to
considering normality, what is normal is rarely very smart but, more
importantly, cramming employees into air-conditioned glass and steel
mausoleums, when there are sensible alternatives, is a much better
demonstration of abnormality.
"Telework means I'm paying for two offices."
Who is paying for what is something that must be agreed between employers
and employees – there are many options. A home office would be much
cheaper than a company car. Where implementation costs are involved, they
can be planned for, after a pilot study within the company: the
productivity increase and lower recruitment and retention costs normally
cover any extra expense.
"Telework is an employment issue – it
doesn't concern me."
the telework agreement is between employer and employee, telework affects
traffic, pollution, local services, employee stress and occupational
health, and the costs of office accommodation. It is about families,
flexibility, lifestyles, competitiveness and efficiency. There is scarcely
a problem or issue in the modern world that is not somehow related to
telework. And all it takes is a small change in the way employers and
"Telework only works where long commutes are
can deliver many of its benefits without considering commuting at all.
After all, companies who endorse telework are rarely concerned with the
employee's commute. (The argument that we don't have the same
commuting problems as are seen elsewhere, and therefore don't need to consider
telework, is wrong and irrelevant. It is wrong because we are already
thinking of spending millions to overcome commuting traffic jams, and it
is irrelevant because there are many other reasons why telework is a good
"Telework means I'll never see my staff."
does not mean employees are out of the office all day, every day. Telework
can work even if the employee is out of the office only one day a week, or
three hours every day, or if some other arrangement is agreed. The average
US teleworker is out of the traditional work place just under two days a
"Telework is a women’s or child care issue."
Telework might help with the
work/family balance but that doesn’t mean it’s all about child-care. Even
if it was, child-care is not solely a 'women’s issue'. Telework is not
solely about child-care. In fact, child-care can pose problems for
telework. Further, it doesn’t really matter what fuels the demand for
telework – child-care might be one of a number of issues. The demand
will be there, for one reason or another. The question is how we are going
to respond to it.
"Telework means I won't know my staff are
Teleworkers will continue to produce the work that is expected of them,
wherever they are. If managers measure the work produced, they will always
know whether the teleworker is working.
"Telework is not right for every company
or every employee."
say that it is not right for some companies doesn't mean that it is not right
for your company. This is not an argument against telework: it is
an argument for its implementation by the companies it is right for. That
it is not right for everyone further underlines the need for ensuring that
telework is a voluntary and mutual agreement, based on a clearly
Telework is already a popular method of
organising work-places, satisfying employee aspirations,
community-wide challenges. Unfortunately, whenever it is mentioned,
knee-jerk reactions distort the debate, confuse the issues
and mean that attempts at serious
consideration are still-born. Some of
these reactions (with responses) are listed on the left.
Many other questions could be raised and
myths promulgated but the questions raised about telework
must also be
raised about the traditional business. For example, if the prospect of
a real threat in a telework arrangement, it is normally a
real threat in the traditional work-place
as well; how you manage
teleworkers will depend on how you manage your current staff; the
technology teleworkers will need is the same as staff currently need; and
It is unfair to attack telework for
problems that already exist in the traditional work place.
This is best guarded against by ensuring that every question about telework is
answered first for the traditional workplace. For example, the question
'How will I know
my staff are working?' is best answered by asking 'How do
you know they are working now?'.