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TELEWORKING : A Place for the Introvert?

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Introduction

TELEWORKING : A Place for the Introvert? Abstract Advances in information technology have had tremendous impact on the nature of work, on organizations and on society generally. Cheap yet powerful hardware, telecommunications and data networks, and distributed databases have enabled organizations to re-engineer their business processes and to change the way they do business. One specific example is teleworking, where employees work from home via an 'information super-highway'. Despite well-documented personal, organizational and society benefits, many workers prefer the social contact of office work to the face-less anonymity of teleworking. Does teleworking provide a means for introverts to 'come out of their shell' and contribute to organizations? Introduction Advances in information technology have had tremendous impact on the nature of work, on organizations and on society generally. Cheap yet powerful hardware, telecommunications and data networks, and distributed databases have enabled organizations to re-engineer their business processes and to change the way they do business. One specific example is teleworking, which enables employees to perform work in a location and time independent manner. This paper will describe teleworking and outline the benefits of teleworking to individuals, organizations and society in general. After giving examples of organizations that have introduced teleworking schemes, the paper suggests that teleworking does not appeal to all workers and is best suited to employees "with high needs for autonomy and low needs for affiliation" [Olsen,1991:p8] - in fact, introverts are more likely to prefer teleworking as a way of performing work. ...read more.

Middle

Also, teleworkers experience responsibility and autonomy by exercising their personal preferences and demonstrating their commitment [Glukin,1985]. Teleworking employers can gain through increased productivity, reduced costs and improved morale. Teleworkers are believed to be more productive because they work when they feel like it, they work without interruption, and they put in longer hours [Lewis,1984]; studies have shown worker productivity gains of between 20% and 40% ["Newsfront",1984; "US Companies...",1994; Lynch,1994b; San Francisco Examiner,1994] with some increases reported to be as high as 300% [Lewis,1984]. Employers can save money on expensive city centre office space when work is performed in less costly accommodation or in employees' homes [Chabrow,1985]; teleworkers do not charge their employer for office space, heating, air conditioning or cleaning [Cross,1986]. Also, some employers have extended their teleworking beyond national boundaries in order to take advantage of cheap labour in developing countries [Cross,1986]. Finally, the mutual respect and trust that is created when employer and employee enter a teleworking agreement results in improved loyalty and morale in the employees; a study in South Carolina [Chabrow,1985] showed that employee stress levels, fatigue and low production problems were improved after a teleworking scheme was introduced. From a broader social perspective, teleworking can reduce government infrastructure costs. Teleworkers do not need to use urban highways or public transport to travel into city centres. Also, they reduce the demand for local child care facilities. Examples of Teleworking Teleworking is not just causing excitement in the literature. A number of organizations are actually implementing teleworking schemes :- * IBM has introduced teleworking for 800 marketing and service employees ...read more.

Conclusion

carry a fair amount of discussion as to what it means to be a member of the group - a discussion which can be interpreted as introverts verbalising their negotiation between the objective and the subjective. As teleworking moves to cover tasks with more complicated technologies introverts may find themselves feeling less comfortable; and extraverts will only be able to cope if the medium is capable of supporting a rich social interaction. Conclusion In post-industrial society, organizations are information-rich and information-dependent prime telework candidates include insurance companies, banks, and computer and software firms [Hellman,1985]. Professor Jack Woods of the University of Sydney's Graduate School of Business (quoted by Adrian Lynch [1994b]) says that "70% of the Australian work force deals with information" and that it is information- based employment that is "most suitable" for the transition to teleworking. In addition, "the technology and cost barriers that once made telecommuting prohibitive are disappearing, with the advent of accessible wireless and portable technology" ["US Companies...",1994]. The nature of work and the availability of technology have combined to make teleworking an attractive option. Yet, the incidence of teleworking is well below expectations, because teleworkers are denied the social interaction of office life. Teleworking so far has only appealed to those with low social need strengths, the introverts. Rather than feeling alienated by informal networking at the office, introverts can become valuable electronic teleworkers contributing fully to an organisation from the cocoon of their home. But as teleworking takes on more complex technologies jobs may become available which suit the gregarious extraverts. For this expansion to occur teleworking hardware and software will need to support a richer social interaction than it does at present. ...read more.

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