March 31, 2004
To: Director of San Francisco Public Health Department (SFPHD)
From: Alicia Neumann
Re: Telework Policy
To support the mission of the San Francisco Public Health Department (SFPHD), the
Human Resource division promotes personnel policy in accordance with quality management
practices. In general, this requires Human Resource to take a leadership role in policy
development and provide the Department with ongoing organizational flexibility (Shafritz, 2001,
pp. 363-372). More specifically, quality management practices charge Human Resource with
“…changing the culture, sustaining innovation, planning and accomplishing the next level of
breakthroughs, and developing and sharing work knowledge” (Shafritz, 2001, p. 363). In
accordance with this management approach, Human Resource currently recommends a new
telework policy for SFPHD. Telework will greatly advance the Department’s mission—to
protect and promote the health of all San Franciscans, and serve not only individual employees,
but also the Department itself and the community at large. To provide a full understanding of the
proposed new policy, the following sections of this memo present a comprehensive summary of
telework: including background information, policy rationale and limitations, as well as specific
language and implementation considerations for SFPHD.
Definition and Background
Business literature provides a variety of terms and definitions for telework including
remote work, telecommuting, and working at home (Smith and Baruch in Johnson, 2001, p. 2).
In its broadest sense, however, the practice of telework simply involves working anywhere
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outside of a traditional office while remaining connected to it. Related to cottage industry
practices of old, in which workers at home did piecework for an employer in town (Cross and
Raizman, 1986, p. vii), telework then developed as a concept in the last fifty years due to
innovations in organization management and technology, as well as the advent of an economy
based on managing information (Cross and Raizman, 1986, p. 8). Today, with such tools as cell
phones, laptop computers and the Internet, many employees in government, academia and other
knowledge intensive organizations can work on projects virtually anywhere at anytime while
remaining in touch with one or more office locations.
Organizational advantages that can result from telework include decentralized processes,
increased production, and reduced costs (Cross and Raizman, 1986, p. 8). Also, although
telework remains somewhat new to the public sector, reports indicate that the practice is proving
useful for federal, state and local agencies, and evidence from these organizations shows that
telework “can be very successful and have the potential for real productivity savings” (Kemp,
1995, p. N/A).
Rationale and Limitations for Telework at SFPHD
Effective teleworking creates advantages for individual employees, organizations, and
society at large (Daniels, 2000, p. 2). The proposed telework policy for SFDPH will improve
employees’ quality of life, increase Department productivity, and provide some alternatives to
socially problematic workplace practices. Also, all benefits advance the Department’s mission—
to protect and promote the health of all San Franciscans.
Individual Employee Benefits
Although telework doesn’t suit all employees (which will be discussed later), many
workers find that telecommuting improves their life, providing “a number of practical, financial,
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psychological, and environmental benefits” (Cross and Raizman, 1986, p. 11). Employees who
telework report experiencing greater freedom and control over their lives, which reduces stress
(Pinsonneault and Boisvert in Johnson, 2001, p. 169), a clear health benefit. They also report
fewer disturbances while they are working (Daniels, 2000, p. 2), which can improve morale. One
testimonial from a government accountant working 750 miles from the AGA National office
describes her experience as follows:
I love being able to work from home, especially after three years of doing the
D.C. commute. It is nice to have the flexibility to be able to care for a sick child at
home (and still work that day) or stay late at "the office" to meet a pressing
deadline (Sullivan Force, 2000, p. N/A).
Telework also promises SFPHD numerous benefits, including better staff recruiting and
retention due to employee affinity for the practice and the inability of otherwise qualified
workers, such as the disabled, to appear at an office everyday (Cross and Raizman, 1986, p. 17).
Also, telework improves productivity and saves money. According to research, productivity
increases result from various factors, including less time lost to commuting and office socializing
(Cross and Raizman, 1986, p. 11), as well as the ability to work at peak creativity, which may
not occur during normal office hours (Pinsonneault and Boisvert in Johnson, 2001, p. 170).
Savings result from such productivity increases, and other factors.
Numerous cost-benefit studies show that telework saves departments money through
decreased sick leave and turnover, as well as reduced overhead costs (Gibson, 2002, p. N/A).
One study by the California Telecommuting Pilot Project concludes that the organizational costs
of creating and implementing a telework policy can be covered within the first year or two, and
benefit-to-cost ratios can ultimately reach 20 to one (JALA, 1990, p. 4). By improving
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productivity and lowering costs at SFPHD, the proposed telework policy can increase health
opportunities created by the Department for all San Franciscans.
Implementing telework at SFPHD can also promote positive change and improve health
throughout society at large. By reducing employee commuting, telework provides environmental
benefits through reduced traffic congestion and promotes quality family life by allowing
individuals to spend more time at home (SF Commission on the Status of Women, 1999). Other
societal benefits include normalizing alternative work habits often associated with women and
lower salaries. In a recent report by the GAO, analysts found that the wage imbalance for women
in part results from their choice of alternative work arrangements, which research shows can
have negative effects on career advancement and earnings (U.S. GAO, 2003, p. 61). By
implementing the proposed telework policy, SFPHD can promote gender equity in the workplace
while allowing women to forego traditional situations associated with a male-dominated
Thus, the proposed telework policy for SFPHD can promote health throughout the San
Francisco Bay Area, benefiting employees, the department and society in general. And, in
developing the policy, Human Resource worked to maximize these benefits through an
understanding of telework’s limitations.
Telework can create unique challenges with regard to organizational structure,
consistency and communication (Daniels, p. 2-3). Specific problems that limit effective telework
include management resistance due to perceived lack of control, and teleworker alienation due to
feelings of isolation (Cross and Raizman, 1986, pp. 22-25). One study of remote workers reports
that the overuse of e-mails and Intranets can interfere with teleworkers’ organizational
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attachment (Morgan and Symon, 2002, p. 307). Also, lack of organizational commitment to
equal benefits for teleworkers can create conflicts with unions (AFL-CIO, 2004). In general, any
telework policy runs a low risk of success without a “systematic framework” that addresses
organizational context, management of individuals, and human resource issues (Daniels, pp. 3-
7), including civil, health and safety liabilities, and zoning at the remote location (Smith and
Baruch in Johnson, 2001, pp. 12-23).
The following policy creates a framework for telework at SFPHD, addressing key issues
with regard to Department structure, employee concerns and Human Resource policy. Even more
importantly, perhaps, it approaches employees with trust and an attitude of partnership, not
control, which promotes quality management practices (Shafritz, 2001, p. 363), and is crucial to
the success of telework (Staples in Johnson, 2001, p. 188):
The San Francisco Public Health Department supports flexible work arrangements for
two types of jobs: 1) simple and output-oriented (e.g., assembling mailings), and 2)
complex, highly autonomous projects (e.g., writing analytic reports). Employees engaged
in either type of work may telework provided they have met the following conditions:
- Completed training that includes positive and negative employee experiences with
telework, and personality considerations for teleworkers.
- Created a schedule, approved by the supervisor and Human Resource that identifies
the number of days per week or month the teleworker will appear in the office.
- Developed a plan that identifies zoning, equipment, health and safety needs, and
teleworker accessibility away from the office, as well as civil liability for specified
types of accidents and injuries.
- Participated in the creation of ongoing performance goals, which have been and
continue to be met.
To implement the proposed telework policy, Human Resource recommends training for
both managers and employees. Management training should include information about two
practices that have been shown to be particularly effective in managing teleworkers: situational
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leadership (Gibson and Blackwell, 2002, p. N/A), and outcomes based performance
measurement (Harrington and Ruppel in Johnson, 2001, p. 100). Employee training should strive
to build understanding and a sense of shared culture among all employees (Monochehri and
Pinkerton, 2003, p. N/A). Effective programs typically include four topics: a telework overview,
a suitability test, telework skills, and working with teleworkers from an office (Henquinet in
Johnson, 2001, p. 124). Advanced teleworker training can help employees meet the conditions of
the telework policy.
The telework policy proposed in this memo promotes quality at the San Francisco Public
Health Department by increasing organizational flexibility and participatory ambiance (Shafritz,
2001, p. 364). It advances telework as an age-old practice with progressive applications,
accounts for accepted limitations, and promotes careful implementation. Once established it will
spread benefits across the spectrum of SFDPH customers and society at large in accordance with
the generous and liberal spirit that infuses San Francisco.
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