With more and more organizations adopting the concept of Telework, it is being hailed as the future for businesses. Telework gives the organization the benefit of recruiting and retaining the best employees even though they may live far away or are unable or unwilling to commute (DiMartino & Wirth, 1990; Kelly, 1988; Kossek, 2001; Neal et al., 1993). However, as many organizations are also realizing, not all is perfect in the world of Telework. Incorporating Telework in the organization may lead to less synergy because of less informal learning, weaker organizational culture, less availability during regular business hours, and loss of non-verbal communication; all of which may lead to decreased job performance (E. J. Hill et al., 2003). So how do organizations balance this out? What are the benefits and what are the problems arising out of implementing this strategy? The solution to these questions can be found after carefully evaluating and understanding the different aspects and viewpoints involved.
Having a Telework policy in place could lead to a lot of issues that could possibly hamper the growth and progress of the organization. In an organizational setting, it is important for a structure to be maintained. A clear communication protocol needs to be in place for each task and a collaborative effort needs to exist to have higher work efficiency as an organization. All these factors are adversely affected by Teleworking. Having employees work from home could lead to poor communication within the organization as there is a lack of physical interaction among them. This impacts the social structure of the organization and hampers peer engagement and cross learning. These factors contribute towards having low team dynamics.
While some tasks can be managed by individuals working in isolation, most organizational tasks require teamwork and collaboration. This is especially difficult when employees are physically not present at the same place. The time to complete the task increases and the efficiency with which it is done decreases.
Communication between employees is restricted to written or telephonic communication. While there is always the option to have video conferences, one can only wonder if they are as effective as having people in the same room. An organization is nothing but a collection of promises, and this structure fails when these promises are not made or are not communicated properly between the different cogs of the organization. Effective and powerful communication is the foundation for an organization’s growth and success and poor communication can be a major barrier for that.
All these factors have an adverse impact on overall productivity of the organization. With employees working from home, communication within the organization can suffer which in turn impacts team dynamics and collaboration capabilities among teams and as a result could see the productivity of the organization go down.
center355600Low Team Dynamics
0Low Team Dynamics
14033506584950center860425Low Levels of Collaboration
0Low Levels of Collaboration
However, these issues could be resolved and controlled by adopting a few changes to the workings of the organization. Speed and quality of work would see a boost with the entire workforce being present at the same place at the same time. Team dynamics would improve with people sharing the same space during business hours and overall quality of communication among members of the organization would also improve. Withdrawing the Telework policy would help improve the overall efficiency of the organization.
If we were to look at these factors from another perspective, things might seem quite different.
Withdrawing the facility of Telework, could have adverse effects on the employees. Once people are comfortable in a certain style of working, bringing about a radical change may not be the best idea. Allowing employees to work from remote locations gives them a lot of freedom to manage their personal lives along with their work lives. The ability to take care of one’s home more effectively is seen as one of the biggest positives of telework. Employees end up saving a lot of time and money, which would otherwise have been spent in a daily commute. The time and energy saved by staying at home, could be put to better use and could result in increased individual productivity and performance. Research shows that telework increases motivation and job satisfaction, helps employees have higher dedication and morale, and a higher energy level on the job due to elimination of wasted time (DiMartino & Wirth, 1990; Hill et al., 1998; Kelly, 1988; Kurland & Bailey, 1999; Neal et al., 1993). Employees who are unable to relocate or commute, are still viewed as assets and are employed and retained by organizations.
Forcing employees to spend a designated number of hours at an office location, could be viewed as problematic to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Employees would be spending a lot of time and energy during the day just to get to and from work and this time would be taken out of their personal lives. This leads to employees feeling stressed, and having to make compromises in their personal lives, just to ensure an acceptable level of performance at work. A lot of employees could feel a lack of independence and autonomy when asked to stop telework.
These factors end up being contributors to lowering employee morale. Forcing employees to report for work at an office and taking away the freedom of telework, would adversely affect their attitude and morale, and would in turn affect their performances and loyalty towards the organization.
20136103810Poor work life balance
0Poor work life balance
left349250Not Allowing Telework
0Not Allowing Telework
right323850Low employee morale
0Low employee morale
center355600Decrease in energy levels at work
0Decrease in energy levels at work
14147804191002069464243840Lack of autonomy
0Lack of autonomy
To keep employee satisfaction levels high and boost morale, it is important to understand their needs and desires. Having the policy of telework gives employees the freedom to manage their personal and professional lives to a greater level. Keeping employees satisfied is the cornerstone for an organization’s success, and with that in mind, it is important to take every step to ensure employee morale stays high. Re-establishing the telework policy would help achieve this goal.
When we look at the two different viewpoints, from two different frameworks, we realize that problems from the employer’s perspective and that from the employee’s perspective are not totally unrelated. While the problems may not be entirely the same, they do have an impact on each other and one cannot be solved without addressing the other. From the organization’s perspective, allowing telework leads to lower productivity, and so they would take actions to improve the productivity of the organization. From the employee’s perspective, disallowing telework would have an impact on their daily lives, and thus that would lead them to be dissatisfied with their work and would lower morale, which in turn would also harm productivity. At the core of this issue, we realize that the main point of contention is to try and select the best path to ensure high productivity for the organization, without adversely impacting employee morale.
In order to achieve the desired results, it is important to find a fine balance and incorporate that to the telework policy. The existence of the telework policy does not have to be a binary decision, with it either being in place completely or being withdrawn absolutely. There is the possibility of modifying the policy to accommodate both parties. To ensure improvement in the organizational structure and efficiency of daily workings, it is important to maintain an office environment where all employees report for work. To have a level of autonomy and freedom to manage their personal lives, it is important for employees to have the option of telework. The solution to this predicament can be reached by modifying the existing policy to allow telework on certain days but ensure presence in the office on other days. This could be done with a fixed day every week designated as a telework day or allowing employees to work-from-home for up to 1 week each month. Reaching such a middle ground, where the needs of both parties are realized and satisfied, is important and should be the solution implemented in this case.