At Orange Business Live '09, the popular "How to Boost Employee Productivity" session discussed the adoption of teleworking within Orange Business Services, focussing on how staff productivity can be improved by the adoption of new technologies. But another benefit which can also be delivered is improved employee satisfaction, which can aid with recruitment and retention, as well as enabling businesses to keep pace with changing working practices.
According to a recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which surveyed 179 senior executives worldwide, 75% of respondents believe that "talent management" is "very important" to their organisation's capacity to innovate. And global human resources association WorldatWork noted that the total number of US teleworkers increased by 17% from 28.7 million in 2006 to 33.7 million in 2008.
With staff able to work effectively from home, without the need to travel daily to an office some distance away, the work/life balance can be improved without impacting business productivity -- the "dead" commute time can instead by used for more worthwhile pursuits. When staff do venture in to the office, they are more likely to line-up a series of meetings with colleagues to make the most of their time, maximising the returns for their travel.
Improved staff morale
John Berry, Director of the US Office of Personnel Management, in a review of teleworking in the federal government, noted that for agencies reporting benefits, improved staff morale was given as the main positive, followed by performance/productivity gains. Where teleworking requests were denied, the most common reasons were related to "type of work", with some blocked because of "performance or conduct issues". Barriers to adoption included "management resistance", "organisational culture", "IT security" and "IT funding".
On average, for every one hour of drive time, staff spend one fewer day in the office per week. This means that for office-based businesses, the geographic recruitment area is limited to staff who can commute easily, effectively ruling out more suitable candidates who happen to be located further away. But the deployment of teleworking technologies negates this issue, enabling staff to be drawn from a wider pool, while also encouraging seamless communications and collaboration with both internal and external partners. This is also relevant where a business has its offices positioned some way from its customers, as it may be more appropriate to employ workers who live nearer to client sites than head office.
Teleworking technology can also be used to enable staff away from the office, for example through sickness or maternity leave, to stay "in the loop", enabling them to remain up-to-speed with developments ahead of their return to the office -- if appropriate. In addition, staff reaching retirement age who have specialist knowledge may be keen to take on a consultancy role, rather than wanting to cut-off their ties with the workplace completely.
Hotdesking drives ad-hoc teams
The adoption of flexible working technology can also provide benefits for workers who remain in the office. For example, by enabling hotdesking, it is possible to avoid the "empty desk" syndrome associated with increased remote working in sites where staff are still allocated fixed office space -- those working in the office can position themselves near colleagues. This type of working practice also promotes the creation of ad-hoc teams, enabling staff to closely collaborate when working on specific projects, based on business needs.
As long as an effective booking system is in place it may even be possible for businesses to permanently reduce the amount of office space they need -- significantly reducing costs. And in an uncertain economic climate, empty desk space also creates uncertainty among employees, which obviously impacts their comfort in the workplace.
Reduced commuting and office space requirements can also cut carbon emissions, enabling both businesses and individuals to benefit from the fact that their actions are good for the environment. And by reducing the reliance on a single site, businesses can include teleworking as part of their continuity plans -- a report exploring this topic can be found here.