Telework is part of a range of flexible work practices that has been growing progressively within organisations of all sizes and verticals globally, and fundamentally represents an extension of how an organisation or business works today. While not new in itself, but accelerating in popularity with the consumerisation and accessibility of enabling technologies, telework embodies a suit of new work practices that may include part-time work, job sharing, flexible start and finishing times, compressed working weeks, term-time work and arrangements to work from home or other remote locations.

Teleworking is the practice of working remotely on a scheduled or regular basis while using ICT to stay connected to the office. It by definition doesn’t imply that teleworkers must be removed on the office on a full-time basis (teleworking is actually more effective on a part-time basis), nor does it require that staff work from home.

Referred to narrowly as ‘telecommuting’ or more broadly as ‘anywhere working’, telework forms an important part of flexible work practices that is reshaping organisational culture. In many instances, these work practices are being demanded by employees and offered by employers to bring about better work-life balance for employees, to increase productivity and engagement, or simply as a talent acquisition or retention instrument.

For employers, telework offers greater employee engagement, job satisfaction and output leading to increased productivity; greater retention of valued staff; more ability to recruit staff with desirable skills and experience independent of where they live; reduced office costs; high floor-space utilisation; reduced carbon footprint from employee commutes, and business continuity in the face of major weather events and other disruptions.

For employees, telework provides better work-life balance, savings in the time, stress and cost of daily long commutes to work; greater ability to combine two-income parents with family and carer responsibilities; improved health and productivity; and greater ability to contribute to local community voluntary and cultural activities.

From a public policy perspective, telework also has the interest of government as a platform for technology adoption and economic development. Research has shown that if 10% of Australia employees were to telework 50% of the time, the total annual gains to the Australian economy would be around $1.4B - $1.9B and that, by 2020-21, would create the equivalent of an additional 25,000 full-time jobs. Social and environmental benefits of telework include helping reduce urban congestion and pressure on transport infrastructure in major cities, as well as increasing employment for people presently disadvantaged by location, disability, age and/or carer responsibilities.

To achieve the benefits of telework as part of flexible workplace practices, telework should not be treated simply as an add-on to existing work practices and management systems. Making telework a success requires the development of new skills and capacities for leaders, managers and employees, and spans:

  • People : mindsets, leadership and management; relationships and collaboration; and social inclusion through workorce participation.
  • Processes and policies : organisation culture; information management; time and productivity management
  • Infrastructure : physical and technological
 
 
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From a technology perspective, telework is a feature of tomorrow’s workplace and the outcome of enabling a business for Flexible Working – using an agile IT infrastructure to allow staff to work collaboratively, independent of location and device (visit Logicalis Flexible Working site for more background on this new workplace approach). Technology has a vital role in enabling teleworks and providing capabilities that can compensate for being away from an office, but at its simplest, the requirements and tools for enabling Teleworkers are not that dissimilar to those required to enable staff working across different locations, and should be considered as part of a broader organisational worker-enablement strategy.

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