Remote Working Technologies, Benefits and Challenges.
[Dissertation (University of Nottingham only)]
"More and more . . . work is becoming something you do, not a place you go to." - Woody Leonhard, The Underground Guide to Telecommuting (1995).
Many organisations now have Remote Working initiatives, not just the large multi-nationals, but increasingly small and medium enterprises as well. There are many benefits of Remote Working which firms can exploit to increase performance such as cost savings, work-life balance, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, loyalty, resilience and finding talent from a wider pool. But alongside these are a myriad of problems as a result of people and technology coming together. Some companies have guidelines and training for Remote Working in place, although many do not. Many firms view Remote Working as ad-hoc arrangements which usually originate from informal staff requests due to conveniences of the day and granted as privileges which can be taken away. These firms simply rely on an underlying management philosophy of trust and mutual benefit. Even with guidelines in place, many issues and problems occur.
Technologies enabling and in support of Remote Working have also evolved rapidly, giving firms the ability to collaborate and do things that were thought impossible a short time ago. Information Technology (IT) management has to provide these technologies, and deal with issues pertaining to continuous operations, support, connectivity and security.
Human Resource departments have to deal with issues such as finding the appropriate staff and job types for Remote Working, paying global talent, and performance measurement systems that will suit this new way of working. There are also many issues surrounding firm culture, communication and trust such as managers insisting on visibility and ˜presenteeism", teams not communicating well, Orwellian-type monitoring of remote workers, and the lack of face-to-face interaction. Remote workers also face all sorts of social problems such as loneliness, isolation and strain on the family unit.
Many firms also grapple with having to make frame-breaking decisions pertaining to Remote Working such as placing workers near customers and market opportunities, implementing hotdesking, health and safety, and being environmentally conscious. This paper intends to explore these benefits, challenges, technologies and issues surrounding Remote Working and gather findings through a survey which will cover these areas.
Results from the survey show that remote workers, including their friends and family, are generally open and supportive towards Remote Working, but still feel that face-to-face interaction is important. They feel that they are supported well by their colleagues but may find themselves overworking, ironically. Results also show that firms, held back by old ways of thinking, are lacking in areas pertaining to Remote Working training, guidelines, security awareness, evaluation and have an unwillingness to fully embrace new ways of working, e.g. hotdesking. Firms could also do more to find appropriate staff, not just job types, for the initiative and pay more attention to issues surrounding accountability, trust, communication and control, health and safety, performance management and monitoring of remote staff. Findings also show that IT management face pressures in providing seamless Remote Working services and support, and may therefore have to innovate and adopt different strategies and procedures.
Remote Working is a good strategy which firms can use to help them through today's competitive business climate and deal with an ever demanding workforce in a global economy that is showing signs of gloom. However, the issues that come along with it need to be managed well for the whole initiative to work.
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