New Zealand SMEs embracing telework and its benefits

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Almost half (46%) of New Zealand’s small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have employees that work remotely, according to research from MYOB.

The survey of 1,047 SMEs, undertaken by Colmar Brunton, revealed that a slim majority 54% did not have remote workers. On the other hand, 28% had employees that worked ‘partly from home and from the office’ and 18% had employees who worked ‘mainly away from the office’.

Most interestingly, the study revealed that New Zealand SMEs whose employees mainly teleworked were 43% more likely to have experience a rise in revenue in the past year and 21% less likely to experience a revenue fall.

Key benefits of teleworking:

 

  • 27% of SMEs whose staff teleworked thought that their employees were more productive
  • 26% saw reduced travel costs
  • 24% had happier employees
  • 19% experienced an overall improvement in IT
  • 16% reduced their business’s carbon footprint

The research establishes a fast correlation between teleworking and improved business results, according to James Scollay of MYOB. “Businesses are realising the bottom line benefits and rewards from more engaged employees,” he added.

Professor Tim Bentley, director of the NZ Work Research Institute, found the results surprising, noting that previous estimates had been significantly lower. However, he pointed out that the survey’s definition of ‘teleworking’ appeared to be very loose, encompassing diverse informal arrangements. “I would have thought there’d be relatively few knowledge workers who don’t either work from home sometimes or extend their work day while they’re at home using the mobile technology,” Bentley said.

The finding that businesses with teleworkers were more likely to experience a revenue rise, on the other hand, did not surprise Bentley. The savings to a small-medium business in terms of reduced workplace costs, on the one hand, and increased productivity, on the other, would contribute to this, he said. Bentley expects to discover similar results in his own research.

He is leading the Telework Productivity and Wellbeing Project, a university-industry collaboration between the New Zealand Work Research Institute, AUT University, the Institute for Broadband Enabled Society, University of Melbourne, and Cisco New Zealand. This study will have a stronger focus on large organisations, and will study the impacts of teleworking on employee wellbeing as much as business outcomes.

“We’re particularly interested in what are the things that determine, firstly whether telework, or flexible work, is implemented in the first place – how that relates to a policy of the company – and also how management attitudes to people working remotely can affect this policy,” he added.

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