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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited
Teleworking presents a considerable challenge for the modern day facilities manager. How can employees be given the necessary support to work effectively from remote locations? This includes not only the technological issues, but also the social stimulus and management feedback required to operate from home. In this issue of Facilities we look at some of the resources on the Internet which:
indicate the current best practice in teleworking management; and
provide a supportive network for people working from home.
The International Teleworkers AssociationURL: http://www.telecommute.org/
TAC, the International Teleworking Association, is a US non-profit organization which seeks to promote the economic, social and environmental benefits of teleworking. Its members share information about the design and implementation of teleworking programs, the development of the US telework sector and research. Initially, TAC began as the Telecommuting Advisory Council, a grass-roots volunteer organization. TAC's membership is comprised of individuals, corporations, government agencies, educators, consultants and vendors involved in teleworking from both the public and private sectors. Members are provided with forums for social, technological, environmental, economic and legislative issues regarding teleworking.
The TAC Website includes a FAQ (frequently asked question) section about the implementation of a teleworking program in an organisation. Much of the advice seems to be sensible and based on members' experience. A few examples of teleworking centres such as the Antelope Valley Telecommuting Center are illustrated using online photo-graphs. Also available to members is an electronic database of publications related to teleworking accessible from the Website.
AT&T teleworking guide http://www.att.com/telework/
AT&T are one of the world's largest telecommunications companies. As such, they clearly have a vested interest in promoting telecommuting as a viable alternative to conventional office working. The site identifies the key benefits of teleworking encompassing cost, productivity and environmental issues. Much of this stems from survey results as illustrated in the following quote:
There are many creative alternatives when considering how to reduce employee daily commutes. Bicycling, mass transit and car/van pooling are among traditional trip reduction options. Work hours can also be flexed and compressed work week offered. Research within AT&T showed that the two favored trip reduction options among employees were telework and compressed work week. Bicycling, car/van pooling and mass transit scored significantly lower as preferred options.
A particularly useful part of the AT&T Website is the section on "measurement" which describes how to measure the effectiveness of a teleworking implementation. It provides online examples of the following measurement aspects:
communication process questionnaire;
performance management questionnaire;
productivity results measurement;
telework personal screener;
telework benefit analysis;
use and support of new technology questionnaire;
ways to measure performance;
post/in-progress telework surveys.
This kind of Internet information is invaluable for any facilities manager interested in piloting a teleworking program or who may want to reexamine their own way of doing things.
European Telework Development http://www.eto.org.uk/
The aim of the European Telework Development program is to make sure that anyone with an interest in telework, teletrade and telecooperation can readily find relevant information that will help them to make good decisions and to apply the techniques of telework, teletrade and telecooperation successfully. This site contains a vast number of reports such as "Is there a 'right' psychological profile for teleworkers?"
Teletrading is a term used in preference to electronic commerce on the Website. Teletrade is described as something much broader than electronic commerce, covering all types of business uses of electronic networks, throughout all phases of a business relationship. It thus includes all of the following:
identification of customer needs and wants e.g. by analysing feedback given online, or through monitoring activity in focused discussion lists;
prospecting for customers through active participation in newsgroups and e-mail lists frequented by the target customer groups;
marketing of goods and services online such as through product catalogues, that provide current information and latest pricing, on the World Wide Web;
direct selling by making it easy for customers to order online, extendingeven further into provision for accepting payments and even (where appropriate) delivering over a network;
supply chain management supporting those in the supply chain, such as dealers and distributors, through online interaction; especially useful for dealing with those in remote market locations;
customer services and support providing extensive support to customers by logging queries online and having them handledby appropriate experts who are also networked.
Despite the rather turgid layout of the Website (it is essentially a document repository), the breadth and depth of information on telecommuting is considerable. It is likely to be of use to facilities managers outside of the European Community as well.
Other telecommuting Websites
There are a host of other websites related to telecommuting many of which are listed on the TAC Website ( http://www.telecommute.org/relatedsites.html ). One site which is also worthy of mention is the BT Teleworking Website ( http://www.labs.bt.com/projects/telework/index.htm ) produced by the Business Solutions Team at BT Laboratories. The information within the Web pages ranges from a short definition of teleworking through to detailed reports on such subjects as "Managing teleworking".
Freely available information is abundant on the Internet for facilities managers looking into teleworking. The alternative of trawling around for hardcopy material seems comparatively unattractive. Furthermore, the sites provide a great supportive mechanism for people feeling isolated as teleworkers enabling them to establish wider networks. Another example of how the Internet is becoming an irreplaceable asset for organisations!