KLR Consulting Inc.
Going Beyond Telework
For the past decade many organizations have
experimented with telework, some have even gone past the experimentation
stage to broader usage. Unfortunately many telework programs have
either accomplished very low levels of acceptance and penetration or have
not been able to move past the pilot stage.
Early telework programs focused on reducing
employee commuting time and helping employees balance work and family –
a noble pursuit but one that few senior executives are either excited about
or willing invest in further. These executives see telework as merely
an employee benefit with little or no business benefit. Organizations
that implemented telework programs driven strictly by employee benefits
are usually stuck in neutral – their telework programs are not going anywhere
and may in fact be in jeopardy.
The second generation of telework programs
went past the employee benefit scenario and started to directly tie business
expectations and business benefits to telework. These organizations
have formal telework policies, guidelines and a focus on management by
results. Second generation telework programs are usually perceived
as being successful but on more careful analysis are often limited to certain
areas of the organization and are usually only supported at a cursory level
by senior management.
The next generation of telework programs is
to shift the focus from simply telework to work transformation. This next
generation recognizes the need to rethink the way we work, where we work,
and the environment in which we work. Work transformation involves
the integration of human resources, facilities management and information
technology strategies to deliver improved bottom-line results while fostering
a workplace that is more satisfying.
Where telework tended to focus on either human
resources or information technology, work transformation integrates both
of these and includes the element of office space into the equation.
The human resources element includes a complete array of work options in
addition to telework; legitimizing options such as job sharing, part-time
and phased retirement for all employees. Now telework is merely one
of a range of options available to help employees most effectively deliver
on their business objectives while meeting their own personal requirements.
The space element of work transformation usually
involves major changes to the way space is designed, assigned and used.
Some of the new space strategies include sharing space, hoteling, team-oriented
spaces, more casual meeting areas, quiet spaces, etc. These approaches
tend to create more of a community feel to the office environment than
the “Dilbert cubes” that so many organizations are using today. The
true business benefits of programs such as telework come to the attention
of senior management when teleworkers are sharing space and thereby reducing
the amount of space required. Few people seem to realize that space
is usually the 2nd highest cost component after employee salaries – a reduction
in this major cost can directly impact the bottom-line.
The technology element of work transformation
is based on the premise that information technology is enabling us to deliver
on work transformation as opposed to driving it. In other words,
the technology allows organizations more options but in and of itself it
is not the primary driver. The technology allows us to work remotely,
to consider the potential of working from multiple places (mobile workers),
to effortlessly share space through formal hoteling systems and to support
the use of distributed work centres that bring employees closer to home
and in some cases closer to customers.
Work transformation requires the three key
corporate service functions to work together – a simple idea but one that
was rarely considered in the past. The key to success is to get human
resources, facilities management and information technology to work together
to consider how the organization can break out of its traditional definition
of work and move forward to an environment that is more flexible, empowering,
communicative and pleasing. The primary driving force of this integration
must be to deliver business benefits to the organization. This means
addressing the real business issues – the ones senior management are interested
in and prepared to support.
The key steps to implementing a work transformation
program are as follows:
Work transformation is a continuous improvement
program. You will never reach the final perfect solution but you
will continue to learn and enhance your program to make your organization
the best it can be. The business environment we operate in today
is one of constant change. To be successful your organization must
continue to change to maintain or improve your competitive positioning.
Organizations that become complacent may not survive to compete in the
So don’t be complacent with your telework program.
Move beyond telework to the constantly evolving concept of work transformation.
It will be a challenging journey but one worth the effort.
For more information on work transformation read
Ken Robertson’s recent book
Transformation: Planning and Implementing the New Workplace,
HNB Publishing, in New York (ISBN: 0-96644286-0-9).
Related web sites:
HNB Publishing hnbpub.com
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