--> Gill Blog: Cultural and Structural Issues Slow the Rollout of Teleworking

Gill Blog

Monday, September 13, 2004

Cultural and Structural Issues Slow the Rollout of Teleworking

By this point, it seems clear that the benefits of teleworking speak for themselves, and government has taken a leading role in adopting new standards of working. Despite all the good news, there still seems to be a lingering lag in adoption. In order for teleworking to gain traction, those touting its benefits must address concerns that arise on two levels; one cultural, and the other structural. The cultural issue is one that we have discussed previously, and has much to do with fundamentally changing deeply ingrained practices associated with the traditional workplace.

Specifically, this requires employers to remove themselves from factory-model based expectations of work (see our last post on Ricardo Semper to find out more). Theoretically, this would seem like a no-brainer, but in practice, things aren't always as easy as they may seem as reflected in the following quote from a piece about the adoption of teleworking in San Diego.
There are several reasons why telecommuting has been slow to catch on nationwide, according to experts:
- Many employers are uncomfortable having employees out of sight.
- Some employees are reluctant to give up the social contact they have with co- workers at the office.
There is little doubt it will take time for cultural issues to reconcile themselves, but in the short term, adoption issues should be addressed by analyzing a couple of key infrastructure issues: the availability of broadband, and shoring up security issues associated with private networks.

In the first instance, we periodically hear about teleworking goals remaining unfulfilled due to the limited availability of broadband. For instance, the State of Georgia is currently experiencing these difficulties as it tries to roll out teleworking programs for state employees:
Currently, only about 1,500 Georgia state employees are teleworking at least one day a month, two years after Gov. Sonny Perdue said the number would be 25,000 - or roughly 25 percent of the state government's workforce - by 2005...Perdue spokesman Derrick Dickey said that part of the problem has been that, because of budget woes, Georgia has not been able to afford to pay for home computers or high-speed Internet service for state employees who want to work from home
Despite the slower rollout of broadband it is clear that it is making good progress, so this type of concern will gradually be allayed, especially as the economics and business case become stronger. This quote also alludes to a more recent limitation that has emerged even with the proliferation of broadband – organizational reluctance to giving employees free access to private networks. This issue is highlighted in the following article from the UK:
but many companies might not be so happy to see sensitive data accessed like this, and might restrict employee access to information via a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs make it appear that your remote PC is directly connected to the corporate LAN, though data is actually going backwards and forwards through a secure pipe over the Internet...And this might bring up another problem, which is that Internet service providers (ISPs) are starting to take a dim view of people using VPNs on a consumer service.
I think this last point about ISP reluctance seems to be the key, because it seems that great advances in security are being made daily. One area where great progress is being made concerns SSL VPNs:
Many companies are turning to a relatively young technology, Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks (SSL VPNs), to provide a full range of remote access while ensuring maximum security...Unlike traditional IPSec VPNs, SSL is a higher-layer, application-independent security protocol. Since it is already included in the browser, no additional client software is required, giving users the benefit of ‘anywhere access’ to Web, client/server and file sharing resources from an Internet café, airport kiosk, wireless device, or PC on someone else’s corporate network. SSL VPNs provide clientless access by using Java, with or without terminal services, to access a full range of enterprise applications.
Perhaps it will take a concerted effort on the parts of enterprise as well as those developing security-related technology to address reluctance of ISPs, but when these issues do sort themselves out, it should be smooth sailing ahead.


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