--> Gill Blog: Constructively Addressing the Downsides of Teleworking

Gill Blog

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Constructively Addressing the Downsides of Teleworking

CAMTOS Solutions is one our key Advisors that provides expertise in business continuity planning. In addition to their core expertise in BCP, they also comprehend a wide range of other issues that enhance the quality of their overall solutions - one of those areas is change management. Jo Verde, a CAMTOS Director is also their specialist in this field. Last week's post referencing the teleworking initiative undertaken by the GSA prompted Jo to offer her own unique perspective on the costs and benefits associated with this emerging field. Although she was in complete agreement with the benefits cited (e.g. environmental, easing traffic congestion, recruitment, etc.), she also felt compelled to offer some valuable insight gleaned from personal experience.

Several years ago Jo authored a paper for a large teleco that tackled the issue of alternate workplace strategies. Although the notion of teleworking was still in its infancy, she convinced upper managment to conduct a trial study testing the effectiveness of teleworking. At the end of the one year testing period, she identified many of the benefits we have discussed, but she also incorporated a thorough debriefing of both test subjects and their managers which followed the trial. It was during this interview phase that some very distinct concerns emerged that simply were not anticipated when the plan was first put together. Apparently, many of those issues remain relevant today, and some of these are listed below:
1.The ability to work in isolation and still be productive
2. The requirement for discipline and focus to stay with the task at hand.
3. The inability to feed/create off of coworkers thoughts and ideas
4. The inability for manager's to evaluate the teamwork aspect of corporate life
5. The sense of "aloneness" that sometimes stifles creativity
6. The absolutely strong requirement for exceptional communication
7. The requirement to discipline oneself to not extend the workday
8. The absolute trust required between the individual and their manager
9. The relinquishing of power for managers
10. The sense of out of sight out of mind
11. The effect on promotional opportunities
12. The loss of the grapevine as a method of communication
In many articles she has read, authors have been quick to point out the benefits, once processes have been modified and workplace restructuring has taken place. Jo suggests that it takes a very special individual to work productively in isolation and while decentralization may not mean working in isolation, some of these same issues will inevitably apply. Organizations looking at implementation of decentralization would do well to factor these kinds of concerns into their overall plan. More than anything, Jo feels this is an important human factor in change management.

Although this information may be commonplace and perhaps a little dated, I believe her assessment is bang on, and the fact that she conducted this from the perspective of a telecom provider gives me the assurance that when they were undertaking this study, they probably spared no expense in seeing it was done properly.

Bottom line? The movement toward teleworking is inevitable, however, if large organizations are moving in this direction, they need to consider the implications of the issues stated above and weave them into their overall strategy. Thanks for the heads up Jo.

Please join the discussion about teleworking.


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