Challenges for Teleconferencing of Business Communication - PDF by kgt19519

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									There are four breaks from the traditional 9-to-5 routine of employees who share
    a work location and see eaeh other on a daily basis. Each of these offers
 challenges for companies and their managers but also opportunities. We can
        also expect telework to look very different in the next few years.



                                       Telework:
The Advantages and Challenges
   of Working Here, There,
   Anywhere, and Anytime
                       NANCY B. KURLAND             DIANE E. BAILEY


     wenty-five years ago. Jack Nilles coined       communication, from on-site working to off-
T    the term "telecommuting" while stuck in
traffic in Los Angeles. It is not surprising then
                                                    site or multiple-site working, and, in the case
                                                    of groups, from side-by-side collaboration to
that initial interest in telecommuting was          virtual teamwork.
driven by concerns about traffic congestion              Estimates of the number of telecommuters
and pollution in densely populated areas            in the U.S. vary, but most figures range between
such as southern California. In the 1980s, as       three and nine n:iillion people (three to eight per-
companies focused increasingly on cutting           cent of the workforce). These figures include
costs, they pointed to telecommuting as a           people who work from home at least several
means to reduce the expense of maintaining          days per month of their normal work schedule.
office space. More recently, organizations          Many forecasters predict these numbers will
have begun to view telecommuting as a tool          continue to rise, but forecasts for the U.S. in the
to attract and retain top personnel in fields       year 20U0 vary considerably: from 15 million
with short labor supplies. Over the years, the      workers to 44 million workers or 57% of the
substitution of computer-based technology           workforce. Further evidence of telecommuting's
for physical travel has led to a number of          growing popularity is found in the creation in
alternative work forms beyond home-based             1993 of a national trade organization, the Inter-
 telecommuting, including satellite centers,        national Telecommuting Advisory Council
 neighborhood work centers, and mobile               (ITAC), dedicated to promoting telework and
 working. Together, these forms constitute           telecommuting. Recently, ITAC published the
 "teleworking." What they have in common is          premier issue of Telecommute, a monthly maga-
 a transition from in-person supervision to          zine devoted to "today's flexible workplace."
 remote managing, from face-to-face commu-                One troubling element of this trend in
 nication to telecommunications-mediated             new work forms is that many companies are
                                                                                   AUTUMN 1999 53
                                                   allowing employees to telework without ade-
                                                   quately informing employees and managers
                                                   about the benefits and challenges. In this
                                                   article, we differentiate among the previously
                                                   mentioned alternative work forms of tele-
                                                   working, describe advantages and challenges
                                                   of each form, and provide recommendations
                                                   to address these challenges. We base our
                                                   insights on previous research, as well as on
                                                   conversations Kurland had with 54 traditional
                                                   on-site and remote supervisors and the tele-
                                                   workers and non-teleworkers they manage
                                                   in two high technology firms.
    Nancy B. Kurland is assistant professor of
    management and organization in the Mar-
    shall School of Business, University of
    Southern California, where she teaches         DEFINING TYPES OF TELEWORK
   courses in organizational behavior and busi-
                                                   To begin the discussion, we define the four
    ness ethics. Her research focuses on
                                                   types of telework: home-based telecommut-
   telecommuting, gossip (informal communi-
                                                   ing, satellite offices, neighborhood work cen-
   cation), the social impact of technology, and
                                                   ters, and mobile working.
   ethics and incentives. She has published in
                                                        Home-based telecommuting refers to employ-
   Academy of Management Review. Business
                                                    ees who work at home on a regular basis,
   Ethics Quarterly, Business & Society. Busi-
                                                    though not necessarily (and, in fact, rarely)
   ness and Society Review, Human Reiations,
                                                    every day. For example, employees at Hewlett-
   Journai of Applied Psychology, The informa-
                                                    Packard can opt to telecommute several hours
   tion Society, Journai of Business Ethics, and
                                                    to several days each week. (We do not consider
   Organization Science. She is an active
                                                   as telecommuters the home-based workers
   telecommuter.
                                                   who are self-employed or who otherwise have
       E-mail: nkurland@marshall.usc.edu           no connection to a central workplace.) A per-
                                                   son can be said to be a telecommuter if her
                                                   telecommunications link to the office is as sim-
                                                   ple as a telephone; however, telecommuters
                                                   often use other communications media such as
                                                   electronic mail, personal computer links to
                                                   office servers, and fax machines. Either the
                                                   firm or the employee purchases the home-
                                                   based equipment, Hewlett-Packard covers
                                                   most expenses for employees when they
                                                   telecommute, including installing ISDN lines
                                                   in employees' homes. In 1993, 100 American
                                                   Express travel agents in 15 locations telecom-
                                                   muted. The company connected these
                                                   employees' homes to American Express'
                                                   phone and data lines for a modest one-time
                                                   expense of $1300 each, including hardware.
                                                        In satellite offices, employees work both out-
                                                   side the home and away from the conventional
                                                   workplace in a location convenient to the
                                                   employees and/or customers. A satellite office
54 ORGANIZATIONAL DYNAMICS
houses only employees from a single firm; it is
in some sense a branch office whose purpose is
to alleviate employees' cotnmute. The satellite
office is equipped with office furniture and
equipment provided by the firm; in addition,
adrrunistrative help may be available there. Fuji
Xerox has a satellite office near Shin-Yurigaoka
Station on the Odakuy Line in a suburb of
Tokyo. It has PCs, teleconferencing, and other
equipment so employees can work there with-
out having to go to the headquarters office in
the city. The people who work there belong to
different departments within the firm so no
whole unit is present at the satellite center.        Diane E. Bailey was awarded her B.S. in
    A neighhorhood work center is essentially         industrial engineering and operations
identical to a satellite office with one major dif-   research (lEOR) in 1988 from the University
ference: the neighborhood work center houses          of California, Berkeley, She received her
more than one company's employees. In other           master's degree in 1990 in operations
words, several companies may share the lease          research and her Ph.D. in lEOR in 1994,
on an office building and maintain separate           both from Berkeley. She currently is assis-
office areas within the building for employees        tant professor of industrial engineering and
of each company.Office suites may be fur-             engineering management at Stanford Uni-
nished by the site owner or by each renting           versity, She was assistant professor of
firm. Satellite and neighborhood work centers         industrial and systems engineering at the
are alternatives to home-based telecommuting;          University of Southern California from 1994-
the employee avoids a long commute to the              1998. Bailey's dissertation on the relation
conventional workplace but remains in an               between work team structure and perfor-
office rather than a home setting. For example.        mance in semiconductor manufacturing won
Southern California has numerous telecenters          the 1995 Institute of Industrial Engineering
 in which employees from different companies           Doctoral Dissertation Award. Her research
 can rent space monthly. These centers sport           on the effectiveness of work teams has
 conveniences such as private office spaces,           appeared in both engineering and business
 cubicles, fax machines, data hookups, telecon-        iournals.
 ferencing, and videoconferencing technology.              E-mail: debailey@stanford,edu
     In contrast to telecommuters who work
from one designated location outside the
main office and who communicate with the
office using electronic communication, mobile
workers are frequently on the road, using com-
munications technology to work from home,
from a car, from a plane, or from a hotel—
communicating with the office as necessary
from each location. Mobile workers thus are
accustomed to working in an assortment of
locales. In an airport waiting lounge, one
author recently overheard a woman ask a
mobile worker, working on his laptop, where
his office was, "Actually," he responded,
"you're sitting in it." Most companies have
employees who are intimately familiar with
                                                                                    AUTUMN 1999 55
                TABLE 1; ORGANIZATIONAL ADVANTAGES AND CHALLENGES
                                               OF      TELEWORKING

                        Advantages                                              Challenges
   Home-Based
   Telecommuting      •Greater productivity                •Performance monitoring      •Organizationloyaltv
                      •Lower absenteeism                   •Performance measurement     •Interpersonal skills
                      •Better morale                       •Managerial control          •Availability
                      •Greater openness                    •Men tori nf;                •Schedule maintenance
                      •Fewer interruptions at office       •Jealous colleagues          •Work coordination
                      •ReiiuL'ed overhead                  •Synergy                     •Internal customers
                      •Wider talent pool                   •Informal interaction        •Communication
                      •Lower turnover                      •Organization culture        •Guidelines (e.g. expenses)
                      •Regulation compiiancc               •Virtual culture             •Technology

   Satellite Office   •Greater productivity                •Performance monitoring      •Jealous colleagues
                      •Better morale                       •Performance tnea&ureraent   •Virtual culture
                      •Wider talent pool                   •Managerial control          •Internal customers
                      •Lower turnover
                      •Customer proximity
                      •Regulation compliance
                      •Corporate culture intact

   Neighborhood
   Work Center        •Greater productivity                •Performance monitoring      •Informal interaction
                      •Better morale                       •Performance measurement     •Organization culture
                      •Wider talent pool                   •Managerial control          •Virtual culture
                      •Lower turnover                      •Mentoring                   •Organization loyalty
                      •Customer proximity                  •Jealous colleagues          •Schedule maintenance
                      •Regulation compliance               •Synergy                     •Work coordination
                                                                                        •Internal customers
  Mobile Work         •Greater productivity                •Performance monitoring      •Organization loyalty
                      •Lower absenteeism                   •Performance measurement     •Availability
                      •Customer proximity                  •Managerial control          •Schedule maintenance
                                                           •Synergy                     •Work coordination
                                                           •Informal interaction        •Communication
                                                           •Organization culture        •Guidelines (e.g. expenses)
                                                           •Virtual culture             •Technology



mobile work, like marketing managers, sales-                 telecommute full-time from home and the man-
persons, investment bankers, investigative                   ager telecommutes part-time. Remote manag-
reporters, and any other personnel who need                  ing is characterized by this inability of a man-
to be on the move to get their jobs done.                    ager to observe her employees' work processes.
     Telework, in any form, has ramifications                     Virtual teams consist of team members who
beyond simply changing the way or place in                   are geographically dispersed and who come
which an individual employee performs                        together by way of telecommunications technol-
work: It can extend to remote managing and                   ogy (e.g., video conferencing). Each team mem-
virtual teams.                                               ber may be located in a traditional office setting,
     Remote managmg occurs when managers                     but the offices are not proximate to one another.
are physically separated from their direct                   Additionally, virtual team members may tele-
reports because the manager and/or the                       work, such as a telecommuter who is a member
employee teleworks, and thus manages these                   of a multiple-site team. A project manager at
employees remotely. For example, a manager in                Hewlett-Packard sits in Northern California,
Irvine, California at Fujitsu Business Systems               while his team members abide in Southern Cali-
supervises two employees, one based in Boston                fornia, Florida, and Brussels.
and the other in Dallas. Both employees                           Thus, telework may have additional
56 ORGANIZATIONAL     DYNAMICS
                    TABLE 2: INDIVIDUAL ADVANTAGES AND CHALLENGES
                                     OF TELEWORKING
                         Advantages                                       Challenges
 Home-Based
 Telecommuting         •Less time commuting            •Social isolation               •Conducive home
                       •Cost savings                   •Professional isolation           environment
                       •Less stress                    •Organization culture           •Focusing on work
                       •Mo need for relocation         •Reduced office influence       •Longer hours
                       •More autonomy                  •Work/family balance            •Access to resources
                       •Schedule tiexibility           •Informal interaction           •Technical savvy
                       •Comfortable work environment
                       •Fewer distractions
                       •Absence of office politics
                       •Work'family balance
                       •Workplace fairness
                       •More job satisfaction

 Satellite Office       •Less time commuting           •iVofessiona! isolation         •Access to resources
                        •Cost savings                  •Reduced office influence
                        •Less stress
                        •No need for relocation
                        •Work/family balance
                        •More job satisfaction

  Neighborhood                                                                         •Reduced office influence
  Woili; Center         •Less time commuting           •Social isolation
                        •Cost savings                  •Professional isolation         •Access to resources
                        •Less stress                   •Organization culture
                        •No need for relocation
                        •More autonomy
                        •Absence of office politics
                        •Work/familybalance
                        •More job satisfaction

  Mobile Work           •More autonomy                 •Social isolation               •Longer hours
                        •Schedule flexibility          •Professional isolation         •Access to resources
                        •Absence of office politics    •Organization culture           •Technical savvy
                                                       •Reduced office influence



advantages and challenges that emerge when                 small fraction of their working time.
consideration extends beyond the isolated
teleworker—both up {to managers) and across
(to teammates) the traditional organization.               HOME-BASED TELECOMMUTING
                                                           Organizational level. From the organization's
                                                           perspective, home-based telecommuting pro-
IDENTIFYING ADVANTAGES AND                                 vides an opportunity to improve workplace
CHALLENGES OE TELEWORK                                     productivity. Because telecommuting employ-
These alternative work forms bring both bene-              ees experience greater schedule flexibility,
fits and challenges to organizations, individuals,         they can work when they prefer, and thereby
and society. Many of the advantages and chal-              improve their productivity.
lenges we discuss (see Tables 1 through 3)                      Also, popular press accounts of successful
assume that the teleworker is away from the                telecommuting programs often report that
office a sigruficant percentage of working time.           telecommuters take fewer sick days, are absent
The impact of each advantage and challenge                 less, have higher job satisfaction, and have
may diniinish for individuals who telework a               higher work performance ratings. These factors

                                                                                                  AUTUMN 1999 57
                      TABLE 3: SOCIETAL ADVANTAGES AND CHALLENGES
                                     OF TELEWORKING
                           Advantages                                        Challenges
    Home-Based
    relt'commutiiig     •Less traffic con^eslioii        •Telework culture                •Loss of ability to
                        •Less pollution                                                     l^tera^-t ^^j^,^ ^^j^^^
                        •Less neighborhood triiiie
                        •Greater community involvement

   Satellite Office     •Less traffic congestion
                        •Less pollution
                        •Greater community involvement

   Neiehborhotid
   Work Center          •Less traffic congestion
                        •Less pollution
                        •Greater community involvement
   Mobile Work                                           •Telework culture



 may positively affect productivity. A prime                 have days when I am annoyed by interrupfions
 example of such success can be found at Tele-               but they're fewer because I think, 'Okay, I'm
 Service Resources, which was founded in 1984                not going to worry about it because I'm going
 as a unit of American Airlines Reservations to              to focus on this when I get home.'" Together,
 handle the growing demand for call marketing                these factors, relating to the locafion of work,
 services. In response to growing concerns over              thefimingof work, and the quality of work life,
Texas state commuter legislative restrictions, as           can increase producfivity.
well as employee retention and alternative                        Home-based telecommuting benefits
capacity solutions, TSR began a pilot project to            organizations in ways beyond productivity. It
allow their telephone agents to work from                   enables them to cut costs related to office
home. Over 25 agents now work from home,                    space, as well as to address space constraints.
using state-of-the-art call center technology,              For example, IBM recently reported a $75 mil-
providing a seamless connection with TSR's                  lion annual savings in real estate expenses as a
Dallas-Ft. Worth call center. TSR management                result of telecommuting. In 1994, AT&T saved
believes the teleworkers have been more pro-                $80 million in real-estate and office overhead
ductive, and that they are more satisfied with              costs from having employees telecommute.
their jobs compared to their office-based coun-             And more modestly, the Energy Usage Analy-
terparts.                                                   sis Service for the General Services Adminis-
      Furthermore, telecommuting provides                   tration in Ft. Worth, Texas saved $30,000 a year
employees with a relatively distraction-free               in office space costs when a group leader con-
environment, as noted by one on-site manager,              vinced his management to let a seven-member
"[F]rom time to time [ I telecommute] just to get          staff, slated to move to another office space,
away from here, so that [when] I have specific             telecommute from home full-time instead.
things I want to get done, then I can get away                   Another reason to implement telecom-
from the phones and the people walking in."                muting is that it widens the talent pool avail-
Also, because telecommuters have relatively                able to the organization. It also may stem
distraction-free environments, they are more               turnover by providing workers with flexibil-
open to receiving intermpHons while at the tra-            ity that allows them to keep their jobs in the
ditional office. For example, one telecommuter             face of external demands or desires. As one
commented, "Before I started telecommuting,                on-site manager commented about his
[if] somebody would come along and interrupt               telecommuting employee: "I think that one
me it would irritate me. So today... certainly 1           very good [advantage] is the fact that we have
58 ORGANIZATIONAL DYNAMICS
her here... [I]f we do not have this flexibility,   atively impact those who remain in the work-
I think that we might lose her to some other        place (i.e., non-telecommuters) by (1) disrupt-
department here or to another organization."        ing teamwork, (2) fragmenting the local social
      Finally, telecommuting programs enable        network [of those left behind], and (3) creat-
firms to comply with regulations such as the        ing possible resentment among employees
Clean Air Act and the Americans with Dis-           NOT chosen to telecommute. For example, in
abilities Act. The City of San Diego boasts an      one case, a telecommuter complained that
extensive telecommuting program that it             because he lived next to a golf course, his col-
implemented in response to the federal and          leagues teased that when he worked at home,
state mandates to clean up the air. Telecom-        he had gone "tele-golfing."
muting gets people off the freeways and pro-              Other entities may also face challenges in
vides opportunities to people who stay at           dealing with telecommuting. Unions, for
home or who might otherwise have difficulty         example, fear that telecommuting may
traveling to a workplace. The organizational        adversely affect worker solidarity because
advantages of telecommuting thus cover a             telecommuters are more physically dispersed
wide spectrum, including behavioral out-            and less able to organize collectively.
comes, productivity, and legal issues.                    Additionally, managers may find it diffi-
      On the other hand, several challenges          cult to create team synergy and to overcome
may hamper an organization's willingness to          the absence of informal, interactive learn-
integrate telecommuting into the traditional         ing—learning that takes place by the water
 office environment. A major challenge for           cooler, over lunch, or in the hallways. On the
 managers is their inability to physically           challenge to synergy, one manager com-
 observe their employees' performance. They          mented, "Productivity gains are measured
 question, "How do you measure productivity,         when you put people into an office environ-
 build trust, and manage people who are              ment and a lot of synergy's created...When
 physically out of sight?" If a manager can't see    you telecommute...there's a lack of energy
 her subordinates in action, then she can't note     that I notice in the office..." On the challenge
 where the employee is struggling and where          to informal, interactive learning, another
 he is strong, and may not be able to provide        manager commented: "It's much more diffi-
 reliable and constructive performance feed-         cult to communicate with [the telecommuter].
 back. Some managers can just focus on out-           [Mjost communication here tends to be infor-
 come, rather than process, assuming that             mal communication, not meefings, not memos,
 these outcomes are easy to measure and mon-          or things like that. We find that he is probably
 itor. Salespeople, for example, are prime con-       the least in touch with the general things that
 tenders for telecommuting, and may be one            are going on in the division in terms of product
 reason both IBM and Merrill Lynch are                ideas, concepts. I mean he can make it for a for-
 staunch supporters of telecommuting. But for         mal presentation but those don't happen very
 many other types of employees, monitoring            often compared to work getfing done as people
 and measuring their performance remain               just run into folks, have lunch with folks, and
 problematic and a source of concern. One             that kind of thing."
 manager in our research complained, "At this             This manager affirmed that participating
 point, I don't have any measure at all, none        in formal, scheduled meefings is not enough.
  whatsoever, and that's one of the pieces of        When employees work off-site, they miss the
  this that bothers me about the telecommuter;       learning that occurs, informally, sponta-
  there needs to be a better way to measure pro-     neously—learning that cannot be scheduled,
  ductivity."                                        and is sometimes known as "in place career
      Further, telecommuting can negatively          development."
 affect the social network in the workplace,              Other issues concern developing and
 and thereby pose other challenges for man-          transmitting organization culture. First, orga-
 agers. For example, telecommuting may neg-          nizations may find it difficult to transmit their
                                                                                     AUTUMN 1999 59
  cultures to individuals who often are physi-        out? Should work-related items (e.g.,files,con-
  cally remote. How can organizations commu-          tacts, physical objects) be transferred from
  nicate and instill values to and in these           office to home and back? Sfill other difficulfies
  employees? How can organizafions develop            spring from arranging linkages between
  and express norms? Will telecommuters be            telecommuters and internal customers if the
  less loyal to a company than non-telecom-           latter are unaware that the telecommuters
  muters? Will telecommuters fail to develop          work at home. Lastly, despite advances in com-
 interpersonal skills, some of them firm-spe-         munications technology, communicating with
 cific, that help people communicate and              a remote employee teleworker can still pose
 cooperate in the workplace?                         challenges, such as conveying non-verbal mes-
      A second concern is the issue of creating a    sages. As such, there is a greater need to estab-
 virtual culture: How does an organization           lish confingency plans in the event that the
 make telecommuting acceptable among                  telecommuter cannot be reached by, or cannot
 telecommuters and non-telecommuters,                reach, an office counterpart.
 among subordinates and managers, and                      Finally, telecommuting challenges organi-
 among employees and customers? For exam-            zations to establish clear telecommuting policy
 ple, some non-telecommuters may believe that        guidelines. Some telecommuters are concerned
 teleworkers are not working when they are           with how to handle expenses. For example, if
 not regularly seen in the traditional office, as    the firm has supplied the printer, can the
 with the so-called tele-golfing employee men-       telecommuter also use it for personal purposes?
 tioned above. Others may be reluctant to            If so, how should subsequent costs (e.g., toner
phone telecommuters for fear of interrupting         and paper) be expensed? Others worry about
 them at their homes. Clearly, cultural concerns,    their telecommuting colleagues' technological
both of conveying a corporate culture to the         competence. One telecommuter complained
individual telecommuter and of expanding the         that he works with other telecommuters who
corporate culture to include virtual etiquette       cannot send e-mail, who cannot use basic soft-
and understanding, pose tremendous chal-            ware such as PowerPoint®, and who are
lenges to the organizafion. Merrill Lynch may       unable to transfer files electronically. He loses
have one solution. It has over 130 employees        his own time (and patience) when forced to
working from home an average of three days          help them. Although not as frequent a concern,
per week. In its formalized program, Merrill        determining employees' eligibility for workers'
Lynch provides training and equipment along         compensation is also difficult, largely because
with the same software that exists in its office.   no one is around to witness accidents in the
It has also created a "telecommuting simula-        home. Establishing guidelines and require-
tion lab" where prospective telecommuters are       ments for telecommuting may be an easier
required to train for two weeks prior to work-      challenge to overcome. The state of Oregon
ing from home. However, to fully develop a          provides a very detailed, easy-to-foliow work-
virtual culture, Merrill Lynch will need to         book to help a company devise its own guide-
expand its labs to include interactions with        lines, as do other sources available through the
office-based colleagues.                            Internet.
     Other challenges relate to coordinating             Individual level. From the individual's per-
and organizing work. One challenge has to do        specfive, telecommuting offers a number of
with the telecommuter's availability. When          advantages. The most obvious benefit is that it
telecommuters take advantage of flexibility in      eliminates (for full-time telecommuters) or
scheduling their work, they may be unavailable      reduces (for parfial-week telecommuters) com-
to work peers and clients who maintain tradi-       mute fime. Reduced commute fime saves gas
tional office hours. Another challenge relates to   and car maintenance, as well as lessens traffic-
how organizations distribute tasks between          related stress. Moreover, for workers whose
telecommuters and office workers. Wlio should       long commutes may cause them to consider
handle what? How should hand-offs be carried        relocating (either to a new firm or to a new
60 ORGANIZATIONAL DYNAMICS
neighborhood), telecommuting saves them the          work. Children and spouses alike may not
expense and upheaval of such major change.           respect the sanctity and privacy of a home
Telecommuting further provides employees             office. Children, especially, may have a tough
with more autonomy and control over their            time learning not to interrupt their working
work lives via schedulefiexibilityand an invis-      parent. Indeed, telecommuting may hinder
ibility from managers and co-workers. They           employees' productivity if they are expected
can work in comfortable and familiar environ-        to simultaneously raise children who may
ments with fewer distractions. Since few peo-        need constant attention, "trapping" women
ple see them, they have no need to dress up,         in the dual roles of caretaker and employee
and thus they save money on dry cleaning and         while working at home. Conversely, with
dress clothes. Moreover, their at-home situa-        work located right in the home, and thus so
tion allows them to avoid office politics. For       much more accessible, telecommuters may
many employees, telecommuting provides an            find themselves working longer hours, fur-
even greater advantage: It permits a more effec-     ther straining family relationships.
five balance of work demands with responsi-                Another issue in work and family balance
bilities at home—a major reason Hewlett-             centers on the function of the commute.
Packard strongly supports telecommuting.             Employees may need the transition time
Telecommufing also allows for workplace fair-        between home and work to refocus themselves
ness by enhancing employment opportunities           from home challenges to work challenges and
for disabled individuals. Hence, because             vice versa. In other words, the daily commute
telecommufing can improve individuals' over-         may serve as a "warm-up" period in the morn-
all work-life quality, telecommuters may be          ing and a "cool-down" in the evening. Thus,
more satisfied with their jobs.                      telecommuting, by placing workers in the
     By comparison, probably the most com-           home and eliminafing the commute to work,
monly expressed challenge of telecommuting           serves to blur distinctions between family life
is overcoming the isolation caused by the sep-       and work life. Quite possibly, this blurring is a
aration of the telecommuter from the social          disadvantage for the individual.
network in the traditional work space. Ursula              Two other challenges should be noted.
Huws referred to this isolation as a "trapped        Telecommuters must overcome the challenge
housewife syndrome." While isolation can             of maintaining access to resources at work, as
lead to social frustration that arises from a lack   failure to do so could lead to performance
of interaction with work peers, it can also lead     losses. Telecommuters may need to be more
to feelings of professional isolafion. Telecom-       technically savvy than their office peers, since
muters may fear that when they're out of sight,       support services are not accessible on-site.
they're out of mind for promotions and other               Societal level. Telecommuting provides
rewards. Because telecommuting encourages             societal benefits as well. It can decrease traffic
autonomy rather than solidarity, still other          congestion on strained highways and reduce
telecommuters report that their commitment            automobile-related air pollution—although
or loyalty to the organization diminishes             its impact may be negligible if only a few peo-
because they're not "around" the traditional          ple telecommute. By working at home,
workplace often enough. Isolation may inhibit         telecommuters discourage community crime
an individual's ability to learn the corpora-         that might otherwise occur in bedroom com-
 fion's culture and may also serve to reduce the      munities. Further, because telecommuters
 telecommuter's influence within the firm.            have more flexible schedules and gain time by
    Another challenge commonly voiced                 not commuting to work, they can spend more
about telecommuting relates to its perceived          time building community fies.
role as a panacea for employees, especially                However, telecommuting does pose chal-
women, who face family obligations.                   lenges to society. Society as a whole needs to
Telecommuters may have difficulty establish-          come to terms with telecommuting; it needs to
ing a home environment that is conducive to           develop a culture of telework. One issue that
                                                                                     AUTUMN 1999 61
this culture must resolve is zoning regulations      center employees may continue to feel profes-
that forbid business parcel delivery within resi-    sionally isolated. Because the neighborhood
dential neighborhoods. Another is the assump-        center services a community rather than an
tion (by friends, relatives, neighbors, etc.) that   organization, it most likely will not house suf-
anyone at home during the day is free to chat,       ficient numbers of employees from any single
to watch a child, or to run an errand. A greater,    firm to provide a firm-specific learning envi-
but we suspect much less likely, concern that        ronment. Hence, impediments to produchvity,
has been put forward is that, by transforming        such as those rela ted to a lack of informal inter-
work from a sensual activity to an abstract, com-    action and remoteness in relation to internal
puter-mediated one, telecommuting may cause          customers, may persist in neighborhood work
a gradual degradation of a person's ability to       centers.
interact with other people in a personal, inti-
mate, and human manner. Over time, and unth
enough people involved, this degradation
could change the nature of social intercourse in     MOBILE WORKING
disturbing and undesirable ways.
                                                      The implications of mobile working stand in
                                                      contrast to those of home-based telecommut-
                                                      ing, satellite offices, and neighborhood work
                                                      centers. Whereas telecommuting brings the
SATELLITE OFFICES AND
                                                      employee home, mobile work sends the
NEIGHBORHOOD
                                                      employee away. Extant technology enables
WORK CENTERS
                                                      employees to work anywhere and anytime.
Telework, via satellite offices or neighbor-          Employees are further freed from physical
hood work centers, shares many of the orga-           office constraints. Organizations benefit as
nizational, individual, and societal benefits         employees work more closely with customers
and challenges associated with home-based             and other stakeholders, which is one reason
telecommuting. For example, consistent with           that Fujitsu Business Communications
telecommuting advantages, satellite office            encourages its account executives to telecom-
and neighborhood work center employees                mute mobilely.
will spend less time commuting, will be better             However, advantages associated with
able to balance work demands with faniily             telecommuting for the individual prove to be
demands, and can be located closer to exter-         absent in the mobile work environment.
nal customers. A shared disadvantage is that         Mobile workers find it more difficult to bal-
being off-site invites managerial concerns           ance work demands with home demands.
about measuring employee productivity.               They are often away from home for days and
      Nevertheless, several differences exist. On    weeks, and may spend a considerable
the plus side, employees who work in satellite       amount of time in hotels—all of which may
offices may experience less professional and         chip away at the mobile worker's morale.
social isolation than do home-based telecom-         Two mobile workers discussed the disadvan-
muters. Because the satellite office houses only     tages of this work form:
employees of a single firm, much of the corpo-             "[When I was mobile, I was] always away
rate culture may be replicated in the satellite      from my family. Lots of travel. I put on 20,000
site. Informal interactions are more likely; thus,   miles on my car [in less than one year]. Just
mentoring and informal learning may again            trying to communicate with.. .many people is
take place, reducing professional isolation.         very difficult. Just the fact that I was always
Likewise, in contrast to home-based workers,         traveling I think was frustrating...being away
satellite office and neighborhood work center        from my family, [and always] in hotels."
employees should feel less socially isolated               "Well, I don't know that I personally
because other people are present in their work       derive any benefit. I gain freeway time. I gain
environments. However, neighborhood work             less face time with individuals. My travel time
62 ORGANIZATIONAL DYNAMICS
goes up. I have the ability to access informa-       six cubicles, one team cube, four carrels, and a
tion anywhere I'm at. Personally the only way        lab for the systems engineers. Such arrange-
that it affects me is that I have to spend more      ments can cut costs tremendously. But compa-
time driving and 1 have less time to see people      nies need to be wary that under a hoteling
face to face."                                       arrangement, teleworkers don't often find that
     Mobile working has few societal benefits        each hme they visit the main office, they are
except that it promotes frequent interaction         located at some distance from their work
among people outside the organization. It            groups, and thus they miss out on some of the
thus enables mobile workers to build and             interactions these employees expect and need
refine their interpersonal skills and in turn to     to participate in when at the office.
contribute to a milieu of healthy, human social            Remotely managing employees full-time
interaction. However, a more likely result for       and from great distances is difficult and of
society is that mobile workers merely add to         greater concern. Although truly remote man-
air pollution and traffic congestion.                aging has undeniable benefits (e.g., it enlarges
                                                     the pool from which to choose talented work-
                                                     ers and may place the remote employee closer
                                                     to external customers), it constrains man-
FURTHER RAMIFICATIONS:                               agers' ability to communicate across time
REMOTE MANAGING AND                                  zones and to mentor teleworkers. As one
VIRTUAL TEAMS                                        remote mobile manager remarked:
Remote Managing. When employees telework,                  "In our business and in a lot of other peo-
managers necessarily manage them remotely.           ple's business, the coaching and counseling
Most often, managers do so only part-time and        that you do with people is really, really critical.
from short distances, since employees usually        And it's a constant process as a manager. So
telecommute or work on the road for only part         that's one of the challenges; How do you
of each week. During the remainder of the            develop your people? How do you have
week, these employees come to the main               enough face-to-face [time], or enough time in a
office; managers can interact with them face-        professional environment with them to be able
to-face. In such scenarios, managers have             to see the things they need to improve on and
ample opportunity to observe, counsel, and            to be able then to spend that coaching and
mentor subordinates. In addition, teleworking         counseling time with them? If you do every-
employees are able to associate with their            thing remotely, at the end of the quarter, at the
peers both formally and informally. Through           end of the half, how do you do somebody's
this collegial interaction, organizations can fos-    review? How do you assess their perfor-
ter shared values and norms between on-site           mance? It's easy to identify their performance
workers and frequently remote employees.              based upon activity and, you know, the results.
     The situation becomes complicated, how-          But how about those personal development or
ever, when teleworkers "hotel." Hoteling refers       skills development issues that you really need
to the process by which companies assign office       to focus on?"
space to employees on an as-needed, tempo-               Virtual teams. Virtual teams consist of
rary basis. In a hoteling environment, employ-       members who are separated organizationally
ees have no permanent office or desk; rather,        or geographically, sometimes by continents.
they may be in a different space each time they      The number of virtual teams is growing as
go to the office. For example, Cisco Systems         more people work across internal functional
converted to hoteling in its Freemont, Califor-      boundaries and across external boundaries
nia office. At the time, the Freemont office         with vendors, customers, complementary
served 33 employees (account managers, sys-          enterprises, and direct competitors. More so
tems engineers, and support staff). After con-       than other forms of telework, virtual teams
verting to a hoteling environment, these             depend on e-mail, video-conferencing, audio-
employees shared four private phone booths.          conferencing, and the like to meet, coUabo-
                                                                                     AUTUMN1999 63
     FIGURE 1 : A CONTINUUM OF THECHALLENGE OF REMOTE MANAGING
   Part-day         satellite       neighborhood          mobile                  worldwide
   local            office          work centers          working                 virtual teams
   telecommuting



   Fewest number of management challenges                 Greatest number of management challenges



rate, and share ideas. Virtual teams benefit        managing becomes more challenging the fur-
from their diverse memberships, cross-cul-          ther the subordinate is from the office (in
tural links, access to wider talent pools, and      terms of physical distance for satellite offices,
broader ranges of customer service.                 in terms of both distance and association for
     However, virtual teams face a number of        neighborhood work centers), with virtual
challenges. One engineer we interviewed             teams presenting the most difficult situation.
spoke of problems he faces on a virtual team
spread out among two California locations
and a European one. The team must over-
come considerable cultural barriers. For exam-      PREPARING FOR AND
ple, the Europeans on the team prefer formal        MANAGING TELEWORK
modes of communication, while the Ameri-            ENVIRONMENTS
cans prefer more informal ones. Reliance on e-      Managers can address many of the telework-
mails and telephone calls (which must be            ing challenges described in this article
coordinated across time zones) complicated          tbrough careful preparation and on-going
processes of informal communication, which          involvement. We provide recommendations
frustrated the American side of the team.           to aid tbis process.
Team members must also strive to create syn-             Guidelines. Organizations need to pre-
ergy and shared values; their attempts in these     pare themselves and their employees for tele-
domains is made more difficult by their             work. Guidelines can prepare teleworkers and
remote locations. This problem is likely to exist   managers by covering topics such as schedul-
even for teams whose teleworking members            ing, communication expectations, telecom-
are located in the same city, as lack of face-to-   muting eligibility, performance expectations,
face time severely hampers the development          expense policies, and how to maintain healthy
of a team's sense of itself. All of these factors   collegial relationships.
may delay decision time in the team and, ulti-
                                                          The State of California Telework Pro-
mately, may negatively affect its performance.
                                                    gram, a collaborative effort undertaken by the
    A continuum of remote managing. We sum-         Department of Personnel Administration
marize the discussion of remote managing            (DPA) and the Department of General Ser-
and virtual teams by building a continuum           vices (DGS), provides extensive information
showing the degree of difficulty, in terms of       regarding its policies and procedures online
coordination, observation, and so on,               at http://www.dpa.ca.gov/jobsnpay/teleivork/tele-
involved in various remote managing situa-          main.htm.
tions. In Figure 1, the employee's work                  Infrastructure. Managers need to guaran-
arrangement is located along the continuum;         tee that prospective teleworkers have basic tech-
we assume for purposes of argument that the         nical tools, such as e-mail access and responsive
manager is located at the main office. Local,       communication bnks (e.g., ISDN lines) to ensure
part-hme telecommuting represents the least         successful off-site work. Further, managers
challenging remote managing situation for           should help teleworkers address work-family
the manager based at the main office. Remote        issues, including the design of conducive home
64 ORGANIZATIONAL DYNAMICS
environments for work. For example, one man-           cogently. Managers and employees may need
ager we spoke with is himself a full-time, home-       to improve their ability to communicate effec-
based telecommuter who manages full-time,              tively with electronic media.
home-based telecommuters. He personally vis-                Task scheduling. Part-time telecom-
its his telecommuting employees' home work             muters can learn to reserve certain work for
spaces early in the process, advising improve-         their telecommute days—work that does not
ments as necessary.                                    require access to on-site resources or that does
     Availability. Many firms require tele-            demand hours of uninterrupted quiet time.
workers to maintain working schedules con-                  Meeting scheduling. Organizations peri-
sistent with the office schedule (e.g., 8 to 5         odically should bring on site non-collocated
schedule, with lunch at noon) to facilitate            individuals whose work is interdependent to
coordination with work peers. We caution,              enable them to get to know one another.
however, that such a practice may reduce               Establishing initial bases of trust and familiar-
productivity gains associated with telework.           ity through face-to-face interaction strength-
Whether a company requires a fixed schedule            ens subsequent virtual communication. The
will obviously vary by the type of job; for            process is particularly important for virtual
example, it may be more essential for cus-             teams. In addition, supervisors may wish to
tomer service representatives than for design          schedule regular meetings, "peacock ses-
engineers. Managers may choose instead to              sions," either face-to-face or electronically
negotiate a certain number of hours during             mediated, in which employees share their
which the teleworker will be available. Tele-          accomplishments and "strut their stuff." Such
workers may enhance their availability by car-         meetings counter the view that when work-
rying a pager or by proactively contacting the         ers are out of sight, they must not be working.
main office by e-mail or phone.                             Trips to the main office. Organizations
     Communication. Another element of                 may require employees to be on site at regular
preparation should address communication               intervals to help enmesh them in the organi-
needs. To solve many communications prob-              zation's culture. Some other firms require tele-
lems, off-site workers can let a centralized           workers to work in the main office for a given
communications center know where they are              amount of hme prior to teleworking to allow
working. If the teleworking employee ser-              the company's culture to sink in. Subsequent
vices internal customers, then these cus-              office visits and interactive idea-sharing
tomers must be alerted to the employee's               forums, visits, including time set aside by
remote days. Some customers may find con-              managers for employees to voice concerns,
tacting the employee at home an inconve-               allow employees to develop social and profes-
nience, while others will continue to demand           sional ties. These ties foster teleworkers' beliefs
face-to-face interaction. These specific con-          that they actively participate in the processes
cerns can be handled on a case-by-case basis.          that govern them, and subsequently combat
     Training may need to focus on time zone           professional isolation. Also, frequent e-mail
and cross-cultural communication barriers,             may increase off-site employees' commitment
especially for virtual teams. Often several time       to the organization, although it may reduce
zones separate supervisors from their employ-          solidarity in existing social groups.
ees, thus allowing only a few hours during                  Performance measurement. Supervisors
which their work schedules overlap. Issues             can begin to manage teleworkers by outputs
that could otherwise be handled through face-          rather than inputs. However, for managers
to-face communication any time in a work day           who want to actively mentor their employees
may go unaddressed unless individuals make             or for employees whose work is not easily
a conscious effort to set aside time. It is critical   quantifiable, a focus on outputs may be limit-
that both supervisors and employees feel they          ing. Organizations can supplement an output
can share their concerns, and that they are            focus with frequent communication. Com-
capable of communicating their concerns                puter technology further alleviates the prob-
                                                                                       AUTUMN 1999 65
lem of in-person observation for many other         may not require hands-on attention in a cen-
types of workers. Teleworkers can electroni-        tral site. For example, the growth of the soft-
cally submit observable, quantifiable outputs       ware industry provides a large pool of pro-
such as reports, files, graphs, and other work-     grammers who quite easily can contribute to
specific data. For example, one manager we          the creation of an application program from
spoke with monitors his telecommuters' per-         the comfort of a home office. Thus, we expect
formance daily using computerized statistics of     that teleworking in the future—even in the
product orders, number of buys, and the like.       next few years—will look very different than
     Non-teleworker buy-in. Managers should         it does today.
cultivate non-teleworker buy-in as part of the           One short-term change, already evident
preparation process. On-site employees may          in some locales, is that new homes will be
find that their workload increases and disrup-      designed with a home office as a standard fea-
tions multiply if they become the resource for      ture, and housing developments will include
questions while the teleworker works away           ISDN lines as commonly as they do telephone
from the main office. Thus, managers must esti-     and sewer lines. Already in the Silicon Valley
mate the impact of teleworking on non-tele-         one sees newspaper advertisements for apart-
workers and devise appropriate business pro-        ments with ISDN lines.
cedures to limit this impact as much as possible.        Some small firms may go completely vir-
Moreover, organizations should discourage the       tual. For example, Janet Caswell describes how a
perspective that teleworkers do not work, or        small accounting firm established all its employ-
that they do not work as hard as office employ-     ees in home offices, gave up the lease on a main
ees.                                                office, and placed the remaining office supplies
     In sum, effective preparation and subse-       in storage, with plans to go completely paperless
quent managing can foster a healthy and pro-        in the near future. Other firms will sport main
ductive telework culture. Clearly, current and      offices that are less crowded than before.
expected advances in telecommunications             Already in universities, empty hallways are com-
technology will facilitate a growing number         mon, as professors opt to work at home, using
of teleworkers. Thus, creating a positive cul-      computers to communicate vvith students and
ture now for remote workers will reap               colleagues. Efforts in distance leaming (where
numerous future benefits for individuals,           the students, the professor, or both, are located
organizations, and society alike.                   away from the traditional classroom) suggest a
                                                    possible decline in an on-campus presence. In
                                                    the corporate world, being in the main office
                                                    soon could be mir\imally effective in increasing
THE FUTURE OE TELEWORK                              one's visibility should telecommuting become
Many forecasters predict a steady and consid-       increasingly popular, as there may be no one
erable increase in the number of teleworkers        else there to do the seeing.
in the years to come. The increase, they claim,          Teleworking may fulfill the desire of
will be precipitated by tremendous advances         many workers to leave large urban areas
in telecommunications and multimedia tech-          behind them. Currently, the Sierra Nevada
nology that will make communication                 mountains in California are becoming much
between a remote site and a main office even        more populated as workers take to the hills,
smoother and easier than it is today. The tech-     computers in tow. The surge in populahon in
nological advances will come at a hme when          previously remote areas will grow dramati-
the U.S. economy will experience continued          cally, and in many cases there will be unfa-
growth in service industries. When no physi-        vorable, effects on the rural environment and
cal product is associated with work, as in the      on local economies. Meanwhile, back in the
service industries, teleworking becomes a           cities, we might expect to see fewer large
more viable option. Even in some industries         office parks and ultimately less congestion.
where there is a physical product, its creahon      Teleworking may conceivably spark a long-
66 ORGANIZATIONAL DYNAMICS
term spreading out of the U.S. population            foreign workers to remain in their home coun-
that will alter, among other things, tax bases       try. The result may at once bring both benefits
and transportation needs.                            and hardships to U.S. workers.
      Also, we are beginning to see telecities or         Finally, telework might open up new
villages in which "information technologies are      market opportunities for innovative compa-
used for mobility, economic growth, and other        nies. Already, companies such as Cisco Sys-
long-term public interests, as well as the short-    tems, Fujitsu Business Communications,
term private interests usually satisfied by com-     KPMG Peat Marwick LLP, Flextime Corpora-
petitive markets." The Blue Line Televillage in      tion, and Synergy Planning are marketing
Compton, California, is comprised of four dif-       products and advice designed to address tele-
ferent levels of structure {from largest to small-   workers' unique needs.
est): central tele-district centers, sub-regional         We have listed here a few of the expected
centers, televillage centers and neighborhood        impacts associated with a predicted rise in
communication centers. The telecity Blue Line        teleworking. We add the caveat that the fore-
architects wanted to spatially redesign urban        casts of large numbers of future telecom-
areas, making everything (all services, public       muters are simply that—forecasts. Quite pos-
and private) available within walking distance       sibly, individual workers and managers may
or a short public shuttle ride from each home.       determine the challenges of telework out-
The Blue Line Televillage includes a small tele-     weigh the advantages, and thus decline to set
work center, a computer center, videoconfer-         up teleworking arrangements. Or, more
ence center, meeting rooms and information           likely, individuals may telecommute on a
kiosks. Many services are available there,           part-time basis, thereby muting the impact
including ATM machines, distance educahon            caused by a large teleworking population.
classes, computer and internet classes, and          Nonetheless, in the face of this phenomenon,
public access computers. Future televillages         small businesses, large corporations, local,
might also have connections to government            state, and federal government agencies, and
offices, retailers, and medical clinics.             the public at large do well to begin to develop
     The long-term ramificahons of telework-         public policies to address the needs, chal-
ing on a global scale may include a lessening of     lenges, and ramifications associated with tele-
immigration to the U.S. and the diminishment         work. Rural towns should plan for new devel-
of U.S. engineering and business schools as          opment. For example, towns and ciHes should
premier degree-granting institutions. For            revisit zoning codes, managers should design
example, as communication technology allows          methods for mentoring and evaluating
software development to spread to India,             remote employees, and teleworkers should
fewer Indian engineers will seek higher              seek ways to ensure their employment while
degrees— and ultimately employment—in the            allowing themselves to benefit from telework.
U.S. Domestic high-technology firms will find        Although some outcomes are unavoidable,
it more difficult to attract talent, but they also   careful planning may serve to make the tran-
may have less need for it. U.S. workers may          sition to the new future world of work easier
face lower wages and fewer opportunities if          for all.
positions in service industries, like those in
manufacturing industries before them, move
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                                                                                        AUTUMN 1999 67

								
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