Do home workers really goof off?

Setting up employees for telecommuting still has its technicalchallenges, such as security and interoperability. But overcomingconcerns that off-site employees will goof off instead of work is stillprobably the biggest obstacle.

Anopinion column in the Financial Post last week shows how common theseconcerns are. In Bewareof Time Wasters lawyer Howard Levitt states: “Employeesshould not be permitted to work from home except in extraordinarycircumstances.”

The central focus of the column was on workplacelaw and monitoring employees (especially sales staff) who work offsite, rather than on technology.

Levitt wrote: “Teleworkingmay be the flavour of the times, but in my experience, most employersquickly regret approving it as productivity sags and accountabilitydisintegrates.”

The following day, Network World Canada coveredCiscoSystems’ Networkers conference, where executives from Ciscoand Allstream touted the benefits of working from home. And by the way,we are aware Cisco sells equipment and Allstream sells services thathelp companies setup remote access for workers. However both companiesmade some credible claims on the amount of money it saves, on travelalone.

Nitin Kawale, president of Cisco Canada, said companieswill let employees work from home when there’s a business need to makea change

“The discussion around whether telework is good or bad– I think that debate’s over,” Kawale said in an interview. “Theability to work anywhere, any time and access the company’s resourcesany time on any device- that’s a given.”

It’s unfortunate thatfor so many of Levitt’s clients, productivity sags. But is this aninherent weakness in telecommuting, or is it because some people canonly supervise by physically looking over people’s shoulders, ratherthan checking the end results of their work? In an ideal world, theonly obstacles to telecommuting would be technology and logistics.Despite what you hear from the vendors, these can be major obstacles,especially when you have software that is not easy to access remotelyor the home environment is not a suitable workspace. But hopefully, alack of trust will not relegate telework to merely the flavour of themonth.

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