Archive for teleworking

Background sounds for business?

For all those teleworkers worried about the domestic sounds of barking dogs, children and lawnmowers, Amazon.com is selling the Thriving Office CD

The CD plays “background sounds for home businesses” such as phones ringing, typewriters clacking (does anyone still use one?) and people conversing.

I suppose the idea is that when telecommuters pick up the phone to speak with their clients, instead of hearing the children squabbling, the washing machine churning or Oprah chatting on TV, they instead hear the sounds of a busy office.

But, wait a minute.  These are the very same sounds that remind us of why teleworking can be such a productive choice.  Working from home eliminates all those office distractions and interruptions like ringing phones, boisterous or disruptive colleagues, jammed photocopiers, queues for the printer, unexpected deliveries, not to mention water cooler conversations.

The sounds on this CD is exactly why Bell Atlantic Corporation has said that 25 hours spent working at home is the equivalent of 40 hours in the office.

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Telecommuting: the good, the bad and the unknown

Telecommuters are less productive, more inclined to quit and perform less well than workers at the office, right?  Wrong.

According to a paper published in the Journal of Applied Psychology recently, working from home can realise seven positive results.

In The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown About Telecommuting, researchers from the Department of Management and Organisation at Pennsylvania State University outlined their review of 46 teleworking studies featuring 12,883 employees. Their results show that working from home is good for business and for staff.

Increased control
Workers can have maximum control over their work and work environment, including when they take breaks, what they wear to work and the layout of their office space. They can make individualised decor choices, alter the ventilation to their liking, change the lighting or even include their own music. They get to decide when and how they do their job and schedule their time accordingly. As long as the work gets done, staff are free to choose what they do and when.

Increased work/family balance
When staff can decide when they are going to work and what particular tasks they will work on, they can integrate work and family obligations. This means they can make work and family schedules fit together. Staff can plan uninterrupted work time as well as catering to family needs. Some workers find that they have a room set aside for an office and thereby reduce disruptions. Telecommuting reduces time spent in traffic and can increase the number of hours telecommuting staff work. Taking time to take a child to a sport or pick up groceries can be scheduled into the day along with work “to-do’s”. Telecommuting reduces the tension that can exist between doing one’s job and meeting family obligations.

Improved supervisor-staff relationships
The researchers found that telecommuting had a positive effect on supervisor-staff relationships.  Why?  Because both parties make an extra effort to stay in touch when staff work from home. Supervisors who have less opportunity to see home-based staff may contact them more and have longer and better quality conversations. Staff may also seek out the supervisor to update him or her regularly. When supervision occurs in the office environment it may be more casual and on a “catch-as-catch-can” basis. Telecommuting may mean supervisor and subordinate see each other less, but the quality of their contact may increase.

Reduced stress
Not having to rush to work through commuter traffic, spend extra money on lunch and business attire or worry about being late can reduce stress. Coupled with improved supervisor-staff relationships and less tension at home, working from home causes a reduction in common irritants, subtle pressures and concerns that other workers find pervasive.

Increased job satisfaction
Workers who have increased control over their work, who can attend to their familial obligations and experience autonomy are more satisfied and less likely to quit their jobs. Being provided with the means to take charge of their own schedule and having choice is key to ensuring that workers are satisfied. Being given the option to work at home also promotes a sense of loyalty to the organisation. Staff feel cared about and their concerns taken seriously when they are given the option of alternate work arrangements. Increasing staff satisfaction benefits those businesses hoping to attract and retain talent. Job hunters talk to employees and former employees, gleaning important information about the company and its policies. Knowing that a prospective employer is flexible and recognises the needs of its workers is attractive to prospective employees.

Worker retention
Staff who are ready to quit their jobs often cite tensions between work and family, lack of employer flexibility and difficult supervisors as reasons for their desire to leave. Some employers introduce flexible work arrangements to induce overwhelmed or stressed workers to stay. By finding a way for an employee to do their job and lower their stress, companies keep valued, experienced people on the payroll. People stay at jobs where they feel respected, trusted and allowed to complete tasks in ways that get the job done and suit the individual.

Improved productivity and career prospects
Contrary to those who oppose work-at-home arrangements, researchers found productivity increases in these scenarios. Staff are less distracted and when supervisors examine objectively what actually gets done, they note that at-home workers deliver. The researchers debunked the concern that not being seen in the office was considered career limiting. Participants in the studies they reviewed did not consider their work arrangement a liability and when taken with improved supervisor-staff relations and increased productivity, the at-home work arrangement may help those who wish to advance in their careers.

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Teleworking reduces the pain at the pumps

Undressed for Success has developed a model which shows that if the 40 per cent of US workers that studies show could work from home actually did, the US could cut Gulf Oil imports by 74 per cent.

 

“Yet lots of companies, and even a number of government agencies, are moving to a 4-day workweek to reduce the pain at the pumps. However, our research shows that if fully half of the U.S. working population worked a 4-day workweek, we’d only be able to reduce Persian Gulf imports by 57%,” the website says.

 

Their calculator is only relevant for people living in the US, but it is fascinating.

 

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Telecommuting beating the credit crunch

The US’ Computer Weekly has identified ten social trends and technology advancements which are spurring companies to implement ‘telecommuting’ strategies. These factors demonstrate that the technology, and timing, is now right to make telecommuting a viable option for business.  Among the identified trends, are:

  • Broadband growth: as the number of homes with broadband Internet access grows, working from home becomes more viable.
  • Remote collaborative applications: such as Web 2.0, web meetings and VoIP can lead to huge productivity gains.
  • Telework tools: the proliferation of smartphones and PDAs, together with laptop and mobile computers, has given millions or workers the tools to telework.
  • Work perks: Telecommuting is such a prized job perk that recent research from Sonic Wall carried out by the FactPoint group shows that just over a third (37%) of IT workers say they’d accept up to a 10 per cent lower salary to work full-time from home.
  • Keen to be green: a company’s carbon footprint has become a key indicator of its environmental record, so companies keen to be “green” do measure their carbon footprints.
  • Bounce back from disasters: telecommuting by definition distributes employees away from central offices that may be knocked out through power outages, weather, traffic jams or localised disturbances.

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Teleworkers healthy, wealthy and wise

Companies offering telework programs are finding their employees more productive, happier and richer, according to a recent survey.

 

The US Unified Communications Survey, released in August, shows that nearly 60 per cent of 821 US white-collar workers polled save at least US$25 per month on fuel costs by working at home. Another 25 per cent reported saving more than US$100 per month by performing their jobs outside of the office.

 

High fuel costs are leading many companies to create teleworking programs that put more money in employee’s pockets without increasing their salaries.

 

Yet fuel prices aren’t the only drivers for employers looking to offer employees a more flexible work environment. 64 per cent of the teleworkers said they are more productive and produce better-quality work when allowed to do their jobs from a location other than the office, according to Mitel’s survey results.

 

The survey results also show that 22 per cent of employees would re-evaluate their current positions if their employer didn’t offer a telework program. And 42 per cent responded that companies looking to attract, hire and retain talent should implement telework programs as an option for employees.

 

When you look at both productivity and recruitment and retention, the ROI case for teleworking is hard to ignore.

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CSR – HR = PR

When you take away the human element from your company’s corporate social responsibilities, it is simply a PR exercise. 

In Driving Success: Human Resources and Sustainable Development, Adine Mees and Jamie Bunham say that “if employees are not engaged, corporate social responsibility becomes an exercise in public relations. The credibility of an organisation will become damaged when it becomes evident that a company is not ‘walking the talk’.”

Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to green initiatives.  While some analysts are saying that green initiatives are simply “nice extras” that don’t affect employment decisions or employee satisfaction, people are telling me that their employees really do want to be part of the solution to climate change.

Commercial and residential buildings in Australia contribute 23 per cent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and the Australian Greenhouse Office estimates that emissions from Australian buildings will increase by 94 per cent in the period 1990-2010.  These are seriously alarming statistics, and Australian workers are waking up to the fact that our work practices and office space need to be green.

Trend watcher Reinier Evers says that perks and benefits, that he calls “perkonomics”, are a rising trend.  If that’s the case, green initiatives can be a good ‘perk’ that can add value to employees without costing the company a load of cash.  One recent study found that 79 per cent of Gen Y workers are more likely to accept a job offer from a company with a green focus.

Companies can save 17 per cent on salary costs simply by encouraging their employees to telework at least part of the week.  Flexible working conditions are a real ‘carrot’ to many prospective employees.  A survey of 1,400 CIOs across America found that offering flexible schedules was the second most important way to retain top technology talent.  More people (46 per cent) were keen for flexibility over larger pay packets (41 per cent).

Green buildings offer another ‘perk’ for employees looking for companies with green credentials.  According to the Green Building Council of Australia’s Dollars and Sense report, 66.6 per cent of business managers believe that renting or owning a green building has helped them to attract and retain employees.  This is reinforced by a Bond University online staff survey, in which 93 per cent of employees said it was important to work in a green office.

But here’s the rub: people are suspicious of “greenwashing”.  The majority (68%) of all adults in the US, for example, think that most companies say they are more environmentally friendly than they actually are.  This sentiment does not change widely by age, gender or geography, with all major demographics closely agreeing that “greenwashing” is a reality in today’s workplace.

So, think carefully about which policies can accurately demonstrate your company’s green credentials.  This may mean teleworking, it may mean green office space, actively encouraging car pooling, matching donations to green causes, or giving employees time off to volunteer for environmental causes.  Or it may mean something completely different.  What ever it is, make sure your policies are authentic and that you can ‘walk your talk’.

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Teleworking could save millions of workers from “swineflu”

I’ve mentioned before that I am a big advocate of teleworking for amny reasons: work/life balance, climate change and now personal survival in a potential pandemic environment.

Working from home means people are not on crowded trains or buses, that they are not dragging themeselves into work when they are sick and contagious and they can still continue to provide productive labour services to their employer. We know it is easier to maintain an hygenic environment in a home rather than a large office building with recycled air conditioning and potentially infectious people. I am wondering how many employers are seriously looking at tele working models for their employees or contract workers as part of a wider pandemic plan.

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