Employers Urged to Reconsider Teleworking Policies in Wake of New OSHA Guidelines
NEW YORK, January 4—Directly on the heels of a written advisory from the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) stating that companies are now responsible for the safety of at-home workers, the American Management Association (AMA) today released the results of a proprietary survey that shows that only 7% of teleworkers at US-based corporations have been formally trained to work outside their normal office environment. Additionally, less than half of these workers have been supplied with the necessary equipment to conduct business from home. The survey results indicate that few companies have addressed strategic management issues posed by teleworking and suggests that few will be in compliance with new OSHA guidelines.
"We are steadily becoming a nation of teleworkers. The new OSHA guidelines are another signal that all companies will require some structure and methodology as they move into a teleworking environment," said Scot Faulkner, Global Practice Leader for the AMA. A teleworker is defined as an individual who regularly works at home, at least part of the time, during regular business hours. "The entire concept of core business hours and single office locations," said Faulkner, " will become increasingly obsolete, and that will have huge implications for management." Nationwide, the number of telework employees has increased from 4 million in 1990 to more than 19.6 million in 1999. Those numbers do not include employees who work from home on an occasional basis.
The survey polled 1265 executives of AMA member organizations, which encompass a cross section of industries and company sizes. Over 75% of those polled spend some time working at home during the week, and 41% stated that given the choice they would prefer to work at home more often, even in the face of significant challenges. In addition to the lack of training, a third of workers operating in telework environments experience a lack of ongoing communication with their superiors. A similar number of managers, 38%, report difficulty maintaining ongoing communication with teleworking employees. Additionally, nearly half of all teleworkers (48%) report that they lack adequate technical support when conducting work from remote locations.
"Companies see that teleworking can significantly improve employee recruitment and retention, and even alleviate the need for new office space, so they jump for it," stated Faulkner. "These statistics show that a great number of organizations are not treating telework with the strategic forethought that it demands. "
Looking for solutions to these problems, AMA is working to identify best practices that companies can use as benchmarks to develop telework programs that will increase productivity. These best practices address the underlying difficulties many companies have found with telework programs and include:
Providing adequate operational support to teleworkers, including hardware, software, and remote access capability.
Establishing clear requirements and expectations for both employees and managers; stipulating hours, assignments, and output expectations.
Preparing managers to supervise teleworkers through communication and performance monitoring, instead of physical proximity and observation.
Encouraging teleworkers to meet with their family members to set ground rules for their new work style.
Selecting employees for teleworking based on self-motivation, ability to work independently, familiarity with job requirements, and success in the current position.
"These practices should help ensure that companies can reap all of the clear benefits of teleworking while avoiding some of the less noticeable, but commonly encountered, difficulties," said Faulkner.
The American Management Association is the world's leading membership-based management development organization. AMA offers a full range of business education and management development programs for individuals and organizations in Europe, the Americas and Asia. Through a variety of seminars and conferences, assessments and customized learning solutions, publications and on-line resources, more than 700,000 AMA members and customers a year learn superior business skills and best management practices from a faculty of top practitioners. Those interested in program information or membership can visit AMA's Web site at www.amanet.org.
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