Teleworking – what it is?

Teleworking – what it is?

“TELEWORK is a form of organising and/or performing work, using information technology, in the context of an employment contract/relationship, where work, which could also be performed at the employers premises, is carried out away from those premises on a regular basis. This agreement covers teleworkers. A teleworker is any person carrying out telework as defined above.” (Emilio Gabaglio, Georges Jacobs, Andrea Bonetti, Rainer Plassmann, 16.07.2002 – EU agreement among ETUC, UNICE/UEAPME and CEEP, p. 2).

So it can be stated that teleworking is arrangement between employer and employee in which an employee regularly performs officially assigned duties at home or other work sites which are convenient for the employee.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM in US), describes telework as “an alternative work arrangement for employees to conduct all or some of their work away from the primary workplace. The work location can be a residence, a telecenter, an office closer to the employee’s residence, or another acceptable location. The telework schedule may be fixed or episodic.”(U.S. Office of Personnel Management, http://www.opm.gov/index.asp, date taken 29.01.2010).

         Teleworking is also named telecommuting, flexiwork, sometimes flexiplace, e- commuting, e-work, telework, working at home (WAH), or working from home (WFH).

Different types of teleworking.

In general there are three types of telework: full time, part time, and situational. Full time telework means that the employee performs and completes all or almost all duties outside of a traditional office. In this meaning full time teleworking can be named as home-based work. Part time telework means that the employee performs and completes duties outside of a traditional office on a regularly scheduled basis, but not five days per week. For instance, the employee may telework one or more days a week, every two weeks, or several days in a month. Situational telework means that the employee do not telework on a regular basis. This type of telework may happened in case of medical problem, weather or hazardous conditions, that do not allowed employee to get to traditional office in a safe condition and way, sometimes situational telework may be caused by preparing special project which needs high concentration and doesn’t need present of the employee in traditional office.

Ursula Huws, an Associate Fellow of IES, is an established international authority on teleworking, states different approach to types of teleworking.

The five main types of teleworking according to Ursula Huws are:

  • Multi-site teleworking

This form of teleworking means that employee rotates between working on the employer’s premises and working elsewhere. Typically, the secondary worksite is the home, but it may be a telecottage, telecentre or other outpost.

  • Tele-homeworking

Tele-homeworking means work which is based only in the home and carried out for a single employer, even if the worker does not have formal employee status. This type of teleworking generally involves fairly low-skilled work carried out by people who are tied to the home by the need to care for children or other dependants.

  • Freelance teleworking

Freelance teleworkers, in contrast to tele-homeworkers, work for a different clients, rather than a single employer.

  • Mobile teleworking

Mobile teleworking has evolved from more traditional types of work, which can be qualified in groups such as travelling sales representatives, inspectors or maintenance engineers. The new technologies, especially the development of portable equipment such the notebook computer, the mobile telephone, the portable fax machine, have created type of mobility which allowed increase of amount of professional, technical and managerial work that can be carried out ‘on the road’.

  • Relocated back-office functions

The first four categories of teleworking involve activities which employee can carry out in isolation away from the employer’s premises. Relocated back-office is other form of teleworking which takes place on remote office sites. Many big companies have been noticed a rapid growth in specialist centres carrying out activities such as data entry, customer service, airline bookings, telephone banking and mail-order. These centres operate on a subcontracted basis or under the direct control of an employer located at a distance. These type of teleworking face different problems including: lack of promotion prospects, health and safety problems and equal opportunities issues, for instance fairly low-paid work carried out by women (Teleworking: Guidelines for Good Practice, Huws U. Report 329, Institute for Employment Studies, 1997.).

Teleworking – advantages and disadvantages to employers and employees.

         Telework brings a variety of advantages and disadvantages to employees and employers in many different aspects from work environment to health issues. I am going to point and describe, in my opinion, the most important benefits and negatives of telework to both employers and employees.

Advantages to employers.

  1. Increase of employees productivity, because telework help to avoid common interruption to work in traditional office, what provides to better concentration.
  2. Employees are not late to work because of travel difficulties or unpredictable events, for example breakdown of a car, delays in public transport.
  3. Advantages of a health matter in meaning employees take off less time due to illness:
  • employees who are long-time unwell and not able to work in traditional office, might be able to work from home,
  • employees during recovering period from serious illness might be able to work from home,
  • because employees who work alone are more isolated, they are less likely to contact or spread diseases such as flu, colds, viruses, etc.
  • working in private, convenient place for employees is less stressful and could be less exposure to pollution, it can cause that teleworkers can be generally in better health,
  • employees who work at home, obviously, are less likely to be injured while commuting.
  1. Employee work at home is fully using productive time for only work, compare to traditional office where at the end of work usually employees start to prepare to leave and clear their desk few minutes before the end of the work day.
  2. Help in recruiting process because:
  • flexible working is more attractive, especially to graduated young people,
  • employers have much more possibilities to seek employees, especially among disabled, people who take care of young children or the elderly, it is also encouraging to seek potentially employees away from city centres or even from different regions and countries.
  1. Reducing costs in everyday using of traditional office:
  • saving in reducing employee’s benefits, for instance company car, fuel, public transport season tickets, parking spaces or payable car park permissions etc.,
  • saving in reducing or eliminating catering subsidies or the facilities themselves.

Advantages to employees.

  1. Telework help to avoid common interruption to work in traditional office, what provides to faster implement projects and reduce wasting of time.
  2. Travel difficulties are avoided. From employee site it means:
  • avoid loss of pay because of lateness or non-arrival,
  • avoid stress on the way to work place.
  1. Less time taken off due to illness:
  • if employee is too ill to come to traditional office, might still be well enough to work at home,
  • employees during recovering period from serious illness might be able to work from home and finish priority projects on time,
  • work alone employee is less likely to contact or spread diseases such as flu, colds, viruses, etc.,
  • improved general health because of less stress and exposure to pollution.
  1. Better personal safety, because reducing risk of accident on the way to work and back.
  2. More time to spend with family because time to travel to work is reduced to zero. In this meaning more time in case of family illness, household maintenance etc.
  3. Possibility to reduce cost of living through:
  • living out of city centre in cheaper areas,
  • reduce fuel cost, car maintenance because travel to work and back is excluded.

Disadvantages to employers.

  1. Managers has only a little or even lack of control over employees who work on teleworking base.
  2. Because lack of control, managers can’t check the productivity, they assess employees’ work only through deadlines of projects submissions.
  3. Security issues of data stored and general database; if employees work on their own PCs or laptops, do they have proper programs installed to secure company’s data stored.
  4. Issues included persuade employees to work harder and more productive if manager can’t see process of their work; how many brakes they take etc.
  5. Lost of physical contact with clients and employees; disadvantages connect with lack of reed of body language of employees their physical reaction on different situations and tasks, their way of socialising: making friendships with one another can show manager of employees ability to work in group, leadership etc.

Disadvantages to employees.

  1. Employees work on telework basis, in their chosen places, can’t compare their productivity to employees who work on regular basis in company’s office. It can produce some kind of frustration and unfair feelings.
  2. Employees who work on telework basis can be afraid of additional costs of working at their chosen places for example:
  • decorate an area for their Home Office,
  • have extra phone lines installed,
  • buy additional computer equipment and software to protect data and system,
  • furnished their Home Office.
  1. Employees working at home will have to do own typing, filing and other office function.
  2. Telework employees will lose subsidised food & beverages, company car, public transport etc. (1995-1999 Telework Analytics International, Inc. All Rights Reserved, http://www.teleworker.com/pro_con.html, taken 27.02.2010).