As technology marches forward and the NBN rolls out across Australia, employers need to consider the variety of teleworking options available and the impacts they will have on organisations.
The obvious benefits of boosting teleworking options for staff include less office space and for some, eliminating the dreaded commute to work. However, managing a virtual organisation has a few hurdles of its own.
Alison Maitland, co-author of Future Work, cautions that there is work to be done on both sides if organisations want to explore teleworking options. “We all have a lot of learning to do,” she told HC. “Quite a lot of people have workaholic tendencies and we are going to have to learn how to manage that.”
The shared responsibilities extend across the board. Reciprocal understandings become all important and managers need to start trusting their employees to work diligently when at home. “There needs to be mutual respect and responsibility,” Maitland said.
As the centralised work-place dwindles, so does the distinction between available and unavailable. “There is an emphasis on the relationship you have with your client and that has lead to huge amounts of burn-out,” Maitland said, adding that people are on call all the time.
Maitland highlighted the need for managers to foster a team environment with their employees is more important than ever. “Good managers know their people, know their team very well. When they aren’t there, they can put people in control,” she explained.
Managers and employees must understand that teleworking will often result in looser daily structures, and that is okay. “It enables people to integrate their work and lives more,” Maitland stated, adding that all parties must accept that it is “okay to play tennis at 3 in the afternoon, or do your shopping at 11 in the morning”.
Teleworking provides more than just working from home options, and sometimes these are the answers. “Some people don’t have homes that accommodate that,” Maitland said. “They can’t get out and escape distractions, so satellite or smart centres are a better solution.”
So-called ‘Satellite Centres’ or ‘Smart Centres’ provide another location for employees to work from. Often based in more residential areas, they act much like a university library. “They don’t necessarily have to do a commute to an office, but they do have a space that is work focused,” Maitland said.
The university analogy highlights the irony inherent in the fear managers harbor regarding productivity when employees are left to manage themselves, despite many already having proven their ability by surviving the trials of self-management at university.
Although for some the path towards teleworking may be daunting, Maitland is confident the journey ahead is worth it, provided employers are willing to put in the hard work. “With the right commitment from the top, you can make change happen pretty quickly.”
-By Cameron Edmond