Promoting the benefits of teleworking

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Employees from organisations around the country will be working away from the office this week as they take part in New Zealand’s inaugural Telework Week [12-16 November].

Communications and information technology Minister Amy Adams said the objective of the week, which runs in conjunction with Telework Week in Australia, is to:

 

  • Raise awareness about the benefits of businesses having staff work from home; and
  • Promote the use of ICT to enable employees to work away from the office – while monitoring the savings and productivity gains made by doing so.

Businesses needed to learn more about telework and how it might benefit them and their employees, the minister said. “It is timely for businesses to think about telework and the options an ultra-fast broadband workplace provides. After the week’s end, businesses should have a better understanding of the technological and workplace practices required to make teleworking a success.”

A range of quantifiable benefits to both organisations and individuals can be delivered via teleworking, Geoff Lawrie from Cisco Systems New Zealand – which is one of the organisers of the week – said. "Leading workplaces already draw on new technologies to empower, inform and engage their workforce."

Teleworking is one response to changing global work practices and the need for businesses to innovate and improve their productivity, while retaining the right skills and talent, he continued. "It provides quantifiable business benefits that address many of the current workplace issues facing organisations coping with the need for greater mobility, flexibility, cost control and sustainability.”

Organisations are increasingly seeing the opportunities flexible working arrangements present, including the ability to attract and retain quality talent, employment lawyer Michael O'Brien from Kensington Swan said. "So Telework Week also reflects the theme of the proposed expansion of flexible working arrangements under the Employment Relations Act."

There are many important legal issues to address in terms of a mobile and flexible workforce, but sound advice in this area will enable an employer to properly manage and control these arrangements and reap the benefits, he added.

However, new research from Vodafone NZ indicates the main obstacle to increased flexible working arrangements and telecommuting might be employers themselves.

The survey found that:

 

  • 96% of employees said they were not able to work flexibly because management discouraged them from doing so;
  • 61% of employees reported they couldn't work away from the office because their manager liked to be able to “brief off work” immediately;
  • 51% of employees believed their manager liked to see people sitting at desks; and
  • 37% of employees felt their managers were not supportive of them working away from the office.

Employees seemed to perceive that managers were discouraging them from working in new ways, Becky Lloyd from Vodafone told Fairfax NZ. “But employees may assume they can't work flexibly, but don't ask… The answer is better communication.”

Flexible working arrangements were not a free-for-all, she said, but a negotiation with enormous benefits for both employer and employee – including improved employee motivation, engagement and productivity.

The survey also found that 77% of those surveyed said that, if they were changing jobs, the ability to work from anywhere would make the job more attractive, Lloyd added.

More information about Telework Week, and how to participate, is available at http://www.teleworknz.co.nz/.

 

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