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Are 'teleworkers' more productive?

31 Oct 2013

Employees who telework one to three days per week – so-called ‘hybrid teleworkers’ - are more productive than workers who do little or no telework.

That's according to the Cisco commissioned AUT University study, in unison with the University of Melbourne, which claims the greater the employee flexibility, the greater productivity for companies.

“The benefits of telework and flexible work practices have been recognised informally for a long time, but for the first time, we now have a substantial piece of Trans-Tasman research to quantify the benefits and opportunities telework presents,” says Professor Tim Bentley, Director of AUT University’s NZ Work Research Institute.

“The research has shown us that productivity among teleworkers is rated significantly higher on a range of measures by hybrid teleworkers.

"But we have also found that organisations could benefit even further by establishing appropriate performance management for teleworkers and undertaking cost-benefit analysis of their teleworking arrangements.

"Indeed, most are not currently measuring the positive benefits of these work arrangements either culturally or in terms of the real estate savings."

Key findings from the research, which surveyed more than 1,800 employees and almost 100 managers in 50 businesses and organisations across ANZ, include:

Teleworkers are more productive and satisfied with their job:

· Ratings for productivity were significantly higher (up to 12 percent) for hybrid teleworkers than non-teleworkers, based on a range of measures

· 71 percent of employees agree that teleworking has a favourable influence on their overall attitude toward the job, suggesting that telework opportunities are important for retaining employees. 73 percent say using teleworking technologies fits well with the way they like to work.

· 4 percent agree teleworking makes it difficult to communicate and collaborate with colleagues.

Teleworking is now mainstream, with ‘hybrid teleworking’ the most popular model:

· 89 percent report teleworking one or more hours per week with the mean number of telework hours standing at 13 hours per an average 40 hour work week.

· The majority of employees are either low-intensity teleworkers (less than eight hours per week teleworking: 35 percent) or hybrid teleworkers (one to three days per week: 38 percent). Just 16 percent telework more than 3 days per week.

· 85 percent of employees telework from home with 77 percent having an office or permanent workstation available at their employer’s workplace.

The key enablers of successful telework are trust, good management and the right technology support, but organisations could provide teleworkers with more support and structure:

· 70 percent agree that their manager trusts them to be productive and focused on work outcomes while teleworking.

· Nearly half of teleworkers (47 percent) say their employer or manager is aware that they telework but there is no formal telework policy or agreement in place.

· Less than 50 percent have received telework-related training across areas such as management of teleworkers, providing a safe and healthy work environment in alignment with the Health and Safety in Employment Act (HSE Act), and the effective use of technology to stay connected with colleagues and work systems with the appropriate levels of security.

· The majority of managers indicated they would like more training to help them manage remote employees and to help teleworkers successfully set up their home office.

Geoff Lawrie, Country Manager Cisco New Zealand, agrees the research provides valuable insights for organisations engaging in flexible work practices.

"We know work styles have changed and that the traditional “9-5” work day is no longer the only way to work effectively,” he says.

“Both our customer feedback and our own internal experience demonstrates that flexible working drives productivity and brings about the cultural changes that improve staff engagement and business outcomes.

"This research will assist New Zealand and Australian organisations to consider the management, human resource, cultural and technology opportunities that telework presents."

Are 'hybrid teleworkers' more productive? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below