Ad hoc teleworking policies hitting bottom line

8 May 2008

Businesses’ failure to implement pilot-proven and formal programmes for teleworking is hurting their ability to attract and retain the best staff, analyst firm Gartner has claimed.

In 2008, 41.4 million corporate employees globally will spend at least one day a week teleworking, Gartner said, with the most typical kind of teleworking involving an individual who works from home at least one day a week and has work space available at a corporate office for the remaining days.

Gartner stated that businesses must create formal policies for teleworking to replace the often ad hoc practices that have emerged organically within organisations over the past number of years.

“Most enterprises don’t have a formal plan for virtual office environments and usually support the concept on an ad hoc basis, mostly at manager discretion,” noted Andrew Walker, research director for Gartner CIO Research Group. “Such informal arrangements don’t realise the advantages of recruitment branding and a well-planned transition.

“A more formal approach demonstrates to new recruits that the enterprise is willing to make a long-term commitment to work/life balance, which is key to employee satisfaction and retention.

“Once a company decides to transition from a traditional physical office environment to a virtual one, a business case should be prepared that presents potential benefits for both the enterprise and its employees,” he declared.

Gartner recommends that a formal business case include the impact on productivity and the expected cost reductions.

In transitional environments where virtual working is a novel concept, a pilot programme for teleworking helps to allay loss-of-control fears, Gartner suggested, and an implementation plan for the pilot should be included in the business case so the pilot gets approved along with the proposition.

Gartner recommended that a successful pilot typically follows these steps: deciding the criteria for success of the pilot and how to measure, report and review them; finding a supportive environment that is not too large in order to get started; establishing a steering committee of key decision-makers and a project team to plan the initiative; asking for volunteers to participate in the pilot; educating employees on the initiative, focusing on process changes and changes in roles; and launching the pilot.

“The pilot helps reduce resistance to the virtual office. If the outcomes are positive, and there is no need to extend the pilot to prove the point further, the benefits can be shown to resisters in other parts of the enterprise,” added Walker.

By Niall Byrne