Pondering the fault lines of anywhere working

| November 12, 2013

A flexible workplace is an attractive proposition for attracting and retaining employees. Yvette Blount explains why you are behind the eight ball if you aren’t allowing your staff to telework.

Is anywhere working (telework) able to provide a competitive advantage for First 5000 members?

A key challenge for mid sized businesses is how to attract and retain employees to provide the skills and capabilities for ongoing success. According to research commissioned by MYOB, 57 per cent of SME employees in Australia and New Zealand had some form of work flexibility where they were able to work at least some time away from the office.  Medium sized businesses  were the most likely to allow telework with 78 per cent versus 53 per cent of micro businesses.

Organisations, their employees, industry bodies and government are still debating the fault lines of anywhere working (other terms include telework, working from home, flexible work, digital work). The fault lines for anywhere working continue to evolve around the areas of technology and management.

Technology trends such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD), smart phones and the cloud have provided businesses with the tools to work anywhere, at any time, with anyone. Who is responsible for technology support, data security and privacy, acceptable use and governance?  Which of these technologies should be adopted and how should they be paid for?

Distractions, social isolation, work, health and safety and work intensification have been identified as potential concerns by mid sized businesses. Trends such as work hubs and smart work centres will provide opportunities for alleviating some these issues. Good job design and communication strategies are also important.

Reducing commuting time and providing opportunities for employees have a better work-life balance will increase their well- being. A flexible workplace is an attractive proposition for attracting and retaining employees. Employees need to feel part of the organisation, therefore providing opportunities for engagement is an important component of flexible work.

Having an engaged workforce with the skills and capabilities to deliver exceptional service to the customer is the overarching objective. Some of these issues will not be relevant and will not cause an SME any difficulties. However, there needs to be a clear business plan that articulates the opportunities and the limitations of anywhere working.

The Australian Anywhere Working Research Network (AAWRN) and The Sustainable Digital Cities Network (SDCN) are hosting a breakfast workshop on Tuesday 19th November as part of Telework Week 2013. The purpose is to showcase the latest research on anywhere working (telework) from both research networks, announce research projects and importantly receive feedback on the future research agenda for the AAWRN. Further information and registration.

The themes include:

1.       Socio-economic ecology of the digital city
2.       Travel , Demographics and settlement patterns of the digital city
3.       The future of work (Global Perspectives, Industry Sectors, Social Inclusion) – this includes smart work centres and hubs.
4.       New business /service models and capability in an Anywhere Working world
5.       Ability to use modelling to interrogate unintended consequences of different policy interventions in complex systems like cities and rural and regional communities
6.       Regional and rural opportunities
7.       Institutional and infrastructure support mechanisms

Dr Yvette Blount is a lecturer at Macquarie University’s Faculty of Business and Economics as well as the Head of Research for the Australian Anywhere Working Research Network. Dr Blount’s areas of expertise include how telework provides organisations with sustainable competitive advantage by enhancing service quality and the implications for employee management when implementing new technologies in the service sector. Her research program utilises multidisciplinary approaches to investigate how information systems are utilised by organisations to achieve their business objectives.