This article provides readers with a deeper look into the complex issues involved with creating a successful telework program. The author’s contention is that companies are underestimating the requirements for creating a successful “mobile working” system and overestimating their ability to transform their work culture and management processes to provide the necessary framework for success.

Some companies carefully plan the development of their programs while others create mobile working systems on an ad hoc basis. In the first instance equipment is decided upon and purchased, in-house organizational and security systems are created and the relevant employees are trained and equipped to work outside of the office setting. The hoped for results are employer cost savings, greater employee freedom and work/life balance, and an attendant rise in employee morale and productivity.

The article notes that in most companies the remote working systems are not well thought out. Companies may buy into the mobility vision as far as purchasing some initial equipment but balk at the time and expense of developing back-office systems and employee training. Many managers simply get cold feet when they no longer see an office full of industrious employees and keep mobility on too tight a leash.

Successful telecommuting programs are examined but lead the author to conclude that technology “is at least one step ahead of organizations’ ability, or willingness, to use it.” Of special concern are the security vulnerabilities he identifies. The author is also concerned about companies that fail to appreciate the ways in which mobility affects and changes the nature of organizations. He advocates the development of an effective wireless asset management (WAM) strategy and the treatment of wireless assets like any other valuable business resource.

This article also explores the people side of this issue, noting, for example, that nearly half of teleworker respondents in a recent survey felt that they lacked access to such “corporate social capital” as informal office networks and “coffee machine conversations,” as well as managerial support and the skills and performance measurements necessary to work effectively and productively. The author discusses how mobile technology can mitigate some of these problems and touches on the cultural problems that must be addressed. The article ends with a list of do’s and don’ts that will help companies to achieve success with their telework programs.

Source: Mark Vernon, Management Today (London); July, 2005

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