Guest Commentary by Gloria K. Allen
Training the Teleworkforce
Telework and the
electronic technology now available have given birth to
a whole new concept of office. The workplace involving the where and the
how employees accomplish work tasks is already in the process of changing
by providing new and changing job opportunities for both the employee and
the employer. This change will involve a rebalancing of space and workers
from the standard traditional office workplace to home or telework centers
because it is estimated that within a decade, one-third of the workforce
will work at home on either a full-time or part-time
There are two basic problems with this.
Business owners and managers
are not prepared or trained to handle distance supervision with an outcomes
approach. At the same time clerical and non-managerial personnel are neither
trained nor prepared to dependably meet the needs of business and industry
in an at-home office.
At present, there is no telework training available,
for academic credit which guides both the employer and the employee through
the processes of the upcoming revolution in the electronic office. There
are no courses that answer the demands of the employers, and the vocational
and business students, who are willing and eager to be on the leading edge
of this new way of meeting the needs of business.
For the past five years, I have discussed
various aspects of telework
and telecommuting with the students in my Secretarial Procedures course
at Victor Valley Community College. Those students consistently show a
high degree of enthusiasm and skepticism about telecommuting.
From semester to semester, each class'
questions are the same: What
is telecommuting? Why should I telecommute? Where and how would I work
when I telecommute? How would I set up a home-based office? How would I
handle working from home while separating my work from my family life?
Where can I learn self-employment, self-management, self-organization?
How do I begin scheduling, planning and calendaring? What basic office
skills will I need? Which office machines will I need - computer? printer?
copier? fax? modem? pager? beeper? cellular phone? Will I need e-mail and
Internet access? And most important, How will I get paid for work from
Interestingly, at the same time, employers are
asking me the same
questions but from a slightly different point of view. How and what will
they need to provide for their employees who wish to work from home? What
are the advantages and benefits, the disadvantages and costs? And what
are the future implications?
These questions stimulated me to write an
Economic Development Grant
that was subsequently funded by the state of California to develop a two-credit
college-level course on telework and telecommuting. Because successful
teleworking and telecommuting are linked directly to training for both
the worker and the supervisor, employee and employer, this course will
be able to meet the demands of the employer and the employee/student by
having two unique components:
1) Although it is in lecture format, every
lecture-class meeting has
integrated electronic hands-on practice that enables the student to learn
the basic office skills necessary for home-based office communication,
which includes e-mail and Internet
2) It has an employer-based training workshop
that will enable the employer/supervisor
to learn how to create telework proposals, plans, policies and agreements.
It will show them how to select employees suitable for telework -- and
how to select and train management for remote supervision. Also, employers
will learn how to utilize telecommunications equipment, and perhaps most
important, how to use the hard-cover and electronic resources available
to implement successfully a formal telework
It is important that educational institutions
respond to the needs and
demands of business (employers and employees) and students (business and
vocational, part-time, full-time and continuing education). I hope that
in the near future, more and more colleges will present college credit
business courses that will prepare students, workers and their employers
to be a part of the new office telework concept for the 21st century.
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