An assessmnentof the impact of teleworking

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An assessmnentof the impact of teleworking

This essay will discuss the psychological, social and organisational issues surrounding the implementation of teleworking by a corporation. It will explore whether the adoption of teleworking would be advantageous, and to whom, finally outlining possible courses of action for companies of the future.

A successful company needs to move with the times, and adapt itself to new challenges and potentials in the future. An interesting technique of doing this is to utilise a method of working know as telework. Here, work traditionally performed in an office is conducted at home - by no means a new or revolutionary idea. But what is new and potentially very wide reaching, is the rate of technological advance that has occurred over the past 40 years. With the advent of ever faster and more efficient microchips and telephone connections, has arisen the technology to substitute communications capabilities for travel, to a central work location - the home. (Olson, 1982)

Teleworking covers a wide variety of remote work, including 'neighbourhood work centres' or 'satellite work centres'. However, this essay will consider one type of telework - where the individuals transfer their workstations to their home, on the understanding that this then becomes their workplace. This results in a migration away from the office on an average working day.

There are a number of benefits for all concerned, making telework an extremely attractive option. For the individual, telework can offer much greater flexibility than at present - individuals can work at their own pace and at the times when they are most productive, thus avoiding the infamous 'Monday morning blues'. Working at home means that time and money can be saved from commuting and put to better use, such as being with ones family for longer periods. The way is open, then, for the teleworker to gain more autonomy and self-control, and remove themselves from an often distracting office environment.

From the point of view of the employer, there is a reduction in office rent, space, furniture, and all the trappings accompanying office work - Rank Xerox operated just such a scheme, where the office rents and rates were calculated to be three times the actual salaries paid to London head staff. Now, though, it has to be noted that office rents have reduced somewhat since the expensive eighties. There will be less need for the supervision of lateness and absentees, and there is evidence of higher productiveness among teleworkers. A further incentive is the status of the teleworker. In many cases they will be employed in routine tasks, and can be treated as subcontractors instead of employers, again a policy of Rank Xerox. The company will thus reduce their costs by being exempt from providing such fringe benefits as a pension or company car, and so on. Moreover, a convenient pool of labour will exist, to be tapped in times of high demand, and employees can be retained with the company if they move to another area, or leave due to illness or pregnancy.

For society at large, adopting telework enables vital work to be relocated to economically impoverished areas. It is quite possible for teleworkers to be recruited and working at home in Moss Side, for example, although there are practical considerations such as the risk of burglary of equipment. There is at least the possibility that teleworking may go some way towards reducing the polarization of the North/South divide. A whole new labour force exists to be tapped from the disabled sector - any competent person who is homebound now has the opportunity to work, gaining satisfaction from employment and easing the strain on the Welfare State (the 1982 programme from the Department of Industry encouraged the employment of disabled citizens via teleworking).

By the turn of the century a great consideration will have to be an environmental one. Teleworking naturally cuts down immensely on commuting, and a widespread adoption of teleworking will be of great benefit to the environment.

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However, this is an ideal situation and one which has yet to be achieved, for the introduction of telework poses many potential pitfalls. A factor which can so easily be overlooked is the psychological one - since the onus is on the individual when discussing telework, this is a vital aspect.

Forester (1988) asserts that the reason telework has not become as popular as first predicted, is because many writers underestimate the psychological problems of working at home. For example, Baer (1985) notes how easy it had become for people to place a computer in their bedrooms and work on ...

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