What is teleworking? Definition and meaning
Teleworking, also known as telecommuting, means working from home or remotely using modern technology and telecommunications to remain in touch with your employer or business. Teleworking allows individuals to work either at home, a local cafe with WiFi, or at a local telework center for one or more days each week, or full time.
The teleworker uses communication tools to carry out work duties from a remote location. Over the past twenty years, the practice has become much more common.
According to Dictionary.com, teleworking is:
“The use of home computers, telephones, etc, to enable a person to work from home while maintaining contact with colleagues, customers, or a central office Also called telecommuting.”
Gallup asked American working adults whether they had worked away from the office using a computer. The percentage of teleworkers has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years.
In order to function effectively as a teleworker, you will need the following equipment and technology:
- a computer
- an email account
- an account with a service that provides video teleconferencing (not always necessary)
- a smartphone
- a fax machine (not always necessary)
Teleworking advantages for the employer
- Reduced office running costs and overheads such as office space, electricity, heating and other utilities.
- Fewer travel-related problems. For example, staff not affected by bus or train strikes, or bad weather.
- Wider choice of candidates for recruitment. With teleworking, the employer can choose candidates from anywhere in the country, and also across the world.
Teleworking does not only refer to working at home – it means ‘working remotely’. If you travel by train in Europe, you will see a large number of teleworkers. In fact, even if your carriage has no WiFi, most smartphones can be set to become hotspots if you need to go online with your laptop.
With flexible schedules, i.e., people working outside the traditional 9-to-5 period, companies can become 24-hour operations. For many firms, this could mean more revenue and business opportunities.
The employer needs to make sure that the worker is fully capable of working at home at least as effectively as at the office. The teleworker must be trusted – this is a risk for the employer (and the worker).
Some people do not function well if they are not physically supervised. The employer needs to be prepared to have less control over the employee who is working from home.
Teleworking advantages for the worker
- You can get up later, because ‘traveling’ from your bed to your home workstation is a very short distance.
- You work in a comfortable environment; your home.
- No traveling outside to and from work.
- No work-related travel costs.
- It is easier to work around your family’s needs.
- If you are self-employed or run your own business, you don’t need to spend money on a premises.
With modern technology, teleworking can cover virtually all work-related functions, including conferences. In this image, the teleworker is using a smartphone, she should consider investing in a headphone-with-speaker device (or get her employer to pay for it). Videoconferencing is also possible.
Less office camaraderie
If you do decide to work from home, bear in mind that you will have less interaction with other colleagues. There will be fewer opportunities to meet others, bounce ideas off each other, forget about your personal problems with some office banter or after-work get-togethers, etc.
If most of your other team members work at the office, you may find yourself eventually becoming the ‘outsider’ – you might find it harder to work as a fully-integrated team member.
If you prefer separating your personal life from work, teleworking may not be for you. Bear in mind that you will be spending considerably more time ‘immersed’ in your personal life.
A teleworker needs to be a self-motivated person. There will be nobody there motivating you to carry out your duties properly and on time. Are you that kind of person? Can you work successfully under your own steam?
When Marissa Mayer took over as CEO of Yahoo, she banned teleworking, arguing that ‘water-fountain chats’ are crucial for optimal work performance and new ideas. When Bill Gates was asked about her decision, he did not directly disagree with her, but pointed to the huge benefits of Skype and other tools for working better at a distance.
Teleworking becoming more common
According to gallup.com, thirty-seven percent of US workers said they had telecommuted in 2015, a thirty percent increase over a decade, and four times greater than in 1995 (9%). This does not mean that 37% worked at home all the time, but that they have worked at home some of the time.
The average US employee was teleworking for two days each month last year. The majority of employers said their teleworkers were just as productive as their in-office personnel.
The number of individuals working from home has been increasing dramatically since the advent of the Internet. Over the past decade in the United Kingdom, the number of people who are full-time teleworkers has increased to one in seven of all employees.
Richard Branson, co-founder of the Virgin Group, believes that teleworking is a natural progression of the global business and employment environment. He once said: “In 30 years time, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed.” (Image: twitter.com/richardbranson)
In 2015, there were over four million teleworking employees in the UK, representing 13.7% of the total workforce. Experts say this percentage will increase considerably over the next decade.
Technology has made teleworking easier for employees. The majority of companies seem willing to allow their workers do carry out their duties remotely, at least on a part-time basis if their position allows for it.
Video – Teleworking in Australia
In this video, Rose Clemence, the Human Resources Director for Microsoft Australia, talks about teleworking.