Many of your employees aren’t coming to work tomorrow.
They’re working from home. Many organizations are making telework the default working mode: upon hiring, you work from where you live rather than move to where you work.
A 2012 study by the Telework Research Network indicated that telework grew by 73 percent between 2005 and 2011, compared to 4.3 percent growth in the overall workforce. This spiked to 11.4 percent from 2008 to 2011.
Telework will continue to grow and has huge implications for learning, human resources and technology. As the workplace becomes more distributed and virtual, how we hire, develop, retain, connect and support our employees must evolve.
So, what is driving telework? The Masie Center’s investigation has found seven factors:
• Technology capabilities: With the addition of desktop video conferencing, webinar technology, and social and collaborative systems, a worker can have intensive interactions from anywhere.
• Talent requirements: The skills and competencies needed are changing rapidly, and the organization does not want to be geographically limited in hiring staff. If a designer, writer, manager or engineer is needed next month, a company will hire one and have him or her work from where he or she lives. The best talent may advocate for telework as a selection criteria.
• Relocation resistance: Both employers and employees are more resistant to relocation. With an uncertain economy, both sides of the employment relationship are wary of the cost and burden of moving to take a new job.
• Green and real estate impacts: Employers are looking to reduce the costs of daily commuting and save on fixed office spaces for employees. Many organizations are migrating to hotel cubicles for employees on days they are at the office rather than provide a desk space for every staff member.
• Emergency continuity: The U.S. government has taken a major step toward having most employees “telework ready” so in the event of a major emergency, the daily work of the agencies can continue.
• Lifestyle choices: Many employees are opting for telework as a lifestyle choice, either because they have an older relative living at home or a desire to live in a location that does not have opportunities for career advancement.
• Optimization: Some argue that teleworkers can achieve superior work results if they are well connected to their remote colleagues because they have fewer office distractions.
Telework is not without its risks and challenges. We are investigating these questions:
• Learning: What do teleworkers need as learners, and is that significantly different from what office-based colleagues need? Is a face-to-face class at headquarters more significant for teleworkers since it gives them rare share-the-same-air time with their teammates and managers?
• Engagement and collaboration: What are the best ways to engage our teleworkers and provide real-time and ongoing collaboration processes with a distributed workforce?
• Legal issues: When a teleworker is injured by falling off a chair in his or her home office, who is liable? What hours do teleworkers keep, and can they have a second job? And, if the teleworker is in Maine, the employer is in Arizona and the customer is in Florida, where does the transaction legally take place?
• Securing technology: Increasingly, teleworkers will work on their own devices and connect from public places. How do organizations provide agile, flexible, low-cost and secure connections for teleworkers while protecting intellectual property and corporate security?
• Costs: What does the organization spend — technology, travel, time; what does it save — office space, relocation; and what does it gain or lose — brand, culture, community — when a workforce is teleworking?
Our Learning Consortium is pushing for CLOs to develop telework strategy. To answer these questions, we must bring together human resource, learning, technology, legal and business leaders in our organizations and map to a changing technology and regulations environment.