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Despite strong improvements in technology and demand from employees for the opportunity to include telework in their workplace arrangements, the principal barrier to its more widespread availability is management resistance due to;

    • lack of confidence and skills to manage remote workers

    • lack of a trust-based organisational culture that focuses on outcomes to achieve strategic objectives, instead of time spent at the desk and visual observation (presenteeism).

Employees have been taking work home with them and working after hours from home on an ad hoc basis for many years, and many employees work remotely using mobile devices when they are travelling or out and about with clients. Such work arrangements are a form of telework.

Several other factors are now combining to create a tipping point for the rapid uptake of telework as part of 'normal' flexible work practices across the global workforce, which will require a significantly different mindset in leaders and managers:

    • urban congestion in major cities, affecting the productivity of major cities that account for 85 per cent of the national economy

    • long commuter journeys to work with negative effects on employee productivity, health and cost of living, particularly for people living in the more affordable housing areas of outer urban and peri-urban areas of major cities

    • demands by working families for more workforce flexibility to create a better work-life balance and meet family carer responsibilities

    • the need to reduce the carbon footprint of our cities.

The manager of a productive technology-enabled organisation therefore requires a mindset that is strategic, creative and self-aware, where leaders and managers can challenge and change their own ways of thinking about telework across every dimension of the organisation (people, processes, structures and strategy). It is a mindset that adopts a holistic perspective of telework, recognising its introduction is a critical change event but emphasising the essential context of individual and organisational learning.

 Capacity building

Management resistance to telework flows from leaders and managers lacking the skills, knowledge and understanding of how to incorporate telework into their flexible workplace arrangements. While e-skills development in the future workforce, linked to accreditation and qualifications, is being addressed in the tertiary, vocational and industry skills sector, there is also an urgent need to upgrade the existing skills and capabilities of the workforce to manage different forms of telework. This requires building capacity in the following seven areas of telework leadership and management:

    • cultural values that support telework

    • innovative use of new-generation information and telecommunications capability, including use of cloud based services, mobile devices and collaboration tools

    • transforming management resistance

    • outcomes-based performance and productivity assessment

    • inclusion and engagement using formal and informal digital, as well as face-to-face, communication

    • ensuring telework is consistent with the industrial relations framework

    • risk management.

Telework policy and telework employment agreement

Many organisations find it important to develop a telework agreement with each employee before they start working from home, or remote location, that clearly establishes expectations. Including telework in your workplace arrangements provides an incentive for you to move toward an outcomes-based approach for measuring performance objectives.

Your telework agreements are most effective if they can include;

    • an outcomes-based approach to assessing performance

    • communication protocols to ensure effective communication between telework employees and their colleagues in the office

    • ways to manage any risks associated with WHS, information management and security.

The agreement might also include measures you have taken to ensure the telework arrangement effectively manages work-life balance from both the employer and employee viewpoint, and address any concerns about social isolation from colleagues or negative perceptions of the impact of telework on career advancement.


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