10 Myths of Telework: Why You Arent Working from Home

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10 Myths of Telework: Why You Arent Working from Home

by eWEEK Staff

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Myth: Virtual Work Will Reduce Control and Productivity

A report commissioned by City & Guilds and the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) showed that 75 percent of managers believe remote workers are more productive. Research by Brigham Young University showed that virtual workers were able to work 19 hours longer than office-based employees before they felt it interfered with their personal and family life. The latter group reached a breaking point at only 38 hours.

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Myth: Virtual Work Will Increase Security Risks

According to a 2007 report by the Telework Exchange, 94 percent of federal information security officers say teleworkers in an official program are not a data security concern. Concerns include employees working at home on nights/weekends outside an official telework program, lack of appropriate data security tools and technologies, as well as insufficient data security training for all employees. The virtual call center industry-where sensitive data such as credit card and Social Security numbers are exposed to employees from the lowest end of the wage spectrum-is compliant with the highest level of merchant security requirements. Security risks exist whether taking work home, working on a plane, working in an office or working at home.

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Myth: Virtual Work Will Increase Costs

Half-time virtual work can save U.S. businesses over $10,000 per employee, according to the Telework Research Network. The United States Office of Management and Budget showed the five-year cost of one day a week telework among eligible employees would cost $30 million. This compared to an estimated one-day loss of $70 million in lost productivity that resulted from the 2010 snowstorms. Based on the U.S. General Services Administration's own assumptions on the benefits of telework (compiled by Booz Allen) and an analysis done by the Telework Research Network, one day a week telework among eligible federal employees would save the nation more than $15 billion a year. World at Work's 2009 survey showed that more than a third of those with virtual work-compatible jobs would take a pay cut in exchange for the option to virtual work just two days a week.

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Myth: Virtual Work Will Negatively Impact Morale/Company Spirit

According to BLR-a compensation and compliance services vendor-64 percent of those with telework programs say it has improved morale. The national average for home-based work is 2.4 days a week. This hybrid model negates the morale/company spirit issues. Successful virtual companies maintain an esprit de corps with virtual birthday parties, virtual outings, social networking, instant messaging and other creative Web-based techniques.

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Myth: Virtual Work Will Increase Technology Support Problems

"The fastest growing segment in this market comprises enterprises using this technology to support their internal employees," according to an IDC report titled "Worldwide Clientless Remote Support Software 2009-2013 Forecast and Analysis." Tech support rarely involves face-to-face fixes. Remote fix technology is easy and inexpensive. Growth of SAAS and hosted apps will minimize or eliminate these problems. Employee selection and training help mitigate need for support.

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Myth: Virtual Work Is Harder to Manage and Oversee

Results-based management, a key to virtual work success, frees both managers and employees from micromanagement. From Peter Drucker's introduction of Management-By-Objectives in the mid-1950s to Six Sigma, which was popularized by General Electric's Jack Welch in the 1990s, setting and measuring goals have long been held as the key to unlocking employee potential.

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Myth: Virtual Work Is Only Possible for a Small Percentage of Workers

IDC's "Worldwide Mobile Worker Population 2009-2013 Forecast" predicts that more than three quarters of the workforce will be mobile by 2013. According to the Office of Personnel Management, 61 percent of federal jobs are considered eligible for telework. A 2009 World at Work survey showed that 38 percent of employees felt at least part of their job could be performed at home. A third of that group felt they could do virtual work more than 60 percent of the time. According to a 2009 analysis of data from the American Time Use Survey, "In 2007, about 1 in 3 of workers in management, professional and related occupations spent some time working at home on days they worked."

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Myth: Virtual Work Will Inhibit Career Advancement

A Sloan Center on Aging study showed that more than 75 percent of workers felt flexibility contributed to their success as an employee. Forty-eight percent of older Gen X'ers-those in their career-building years-felt it greatly improved their success. Under a results-based management system, performance defines success, not presence. It democratizes career advancement because results are what matters. A 2008 CDW study showed that only about a fifth of private-sector employees were concerned that remote work would negatively impact their career. A 2009 study by the Sloan ("Workplace Flexibility: Findings from the Age and Generations Study") showed that less than a fifth of employees felt those who used flexible work options were viewed as less serious about their career than those who didn't. Gen Y respondents were the least concerned about the effect of flex options on their careers.

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Myth: Virtual Work Will Impede Communications

Technology like instant chat, e-mail and even the telephone play a larger and larger role in keeping colleagues connected. In many work environments, instant chat is becoming the preferred method of communication, whether in the office or not. The HR Institute's 2005 survey titled "The Future of Work-2015" showed that workers in large companies now use e-mail more frequently than telephone calls to communicate on the job. Successful virtual managers describe the communications as different, not difficult. Instant messaging replaces office drop-ins. E-mail replaces interoffice memos. In general, remote communications are more efficient because they offer both synchronous and asynchronous options that can be managed better than the typical barrage of office interruptions.

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Myth: Virtual Work Will Require Change

"Organizations that can learn and adapt faster than their competition have an advantage," according to an IBM study on organizational adaptability. More than 80 percent of Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For (2010)" allow employees to work from home at least 20 percent of the time. According to a 2009 Kelly Global Workforce Index, more than 75 percent of employees feel that mobile technologies (mobile phones, PDAs and laptops) increase their productivity. Companies that have not invested in mobility tools will be at a disadvantage.

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