--> Gill Blog: Telework's Benefits Increasingly Linked to Business Continuity

Gill Blog

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Telework's Benefits Increasingly Linked to Business Continuity

Given that we are a day or so removed from the after effects of Hurricane Emily, there is a temptation to go discuss the way in which local officials in Mexico handled the evacuation of stranded tourists, but why not let you read it on your own.

Actually, I want to talk again about telework. For the longest time, whenever one wanted to find out the latest about how organizations are adopting telework within their workplace, they would typically read a piece couched in a kind of gee-whiz narrative, that would make readers think about how novel the idea of conducting remote work might be. Take this article I came across for instance which discusses how Sun Microsystems is on the leading edge of telework, and how the concept is evolving from telecommuting to telework:
Sun is on the leading edge when it comes to "telework" -- a coinage that nowadays replaces the term "telecommuting" because it encompasses not just working from home but working from anywhere: a client's office, a coffee shop, an airport lounge, a commuter train. With cell phones, broadband at home, WiFi, virtual private networks and instant messaging becoming ubiquitous, telework has become easier than ever.

Although the article points to the benefits of telework (including substantially lower real estate costs), it also talks about the barriers that need to be overcome before telework makes its mark. The primary ones being cultural:
The big barriers are social rather than technological. Managers worry that unsupervised employees might goof off. Workers worry that losing face time might hurt their chances for advancement.

It is interesting to see, however, that the discussion is increasingly being tied to the concept of business continuity and risk mitigation. I came across this notice posted on The Federal Times website, that makes it very clear that teleworking is a critical component in managing risk:
Agencies responsible for managing critical functions that must be sustained through natural or man-made disasters must fulfill the government’s continuity of operations directives. That covers virtually every agency in the government...In case of disaster, an agency’s network and applications should be able to redirect government communications and information to locations outside the affected locations. For example, even a snowed-in work force should be able to remain productive from employees’ homes...the technology necessary to achieve work-force resilience through disruptions, such as the snowstorm, also can enable teleworking during normal operations. Secure virtual private networks link workers’ homes to the agency data centers, keeping employees connected to voice mail, e-mail, video communications and business applications.

Slowly but surely we are seeing the intersection of the many disparate themes we have been discussing on this forum.