Employment legislation coming into effect next month could force many companies to allow their employees to work from home, potentially creating a large market for teleworking-related services such as broadband and voice over IP.
The Flexible Working (Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2002, taking effect on 6 April, requires companies to consider allowing parents with young children to change the hours they work, change the times when they are required to work or to work from home.
The new rules are part of the government's attempt to create better working conditions for British employees, who work some of the longest hours in Europe.
The government estimates that about 3.7 million parents will be eligible to apply to change their working arrangements under the requirements.
It's no coincidence that companies that make the teleworking equipment are among those forging the way in using it. Avaya, which develops products to support teleworkers, has gone beyond the new legislation by developing a flexible working HR policy for all of its 900 employees in the UK -- not just those with young children. Every flexible working employee has a subsidised broadband connection and a one-off contribution towards office equipment.
One Avaya manager, Audrey Campbell, manages a team of 120 people from her home in Bedfordshire, saving four hours travelling each day to and from the office in Guildford.
Using virtual private networks (VPNs) Avaya saved an estimated £690,000 globally in reduced telecom costs per year. Phone calls can be made via a PC or PDA using IP telephony. In a flexible working trial in 2002, Avaya calculated savings of over £3,500 per worker per year from using VPN technology.
Research by the DTI from survey conducted towards the end of 2002 for Work/Life Balance Week says that 46 percent of jobseekers choose flexible working as the benefit they most look for in their next job while in contrast 56 percent of employers have never considered flexible working schemes, such as working from home.
The DTI has published a guide for employers and employees on the right to request flexible working and the duty on employers to consider such requests seriously.
A DTI spokesperson told ZDNet that the Flexible Working regulation would be reviewed three years after implementation, allowing time for it to bed down. The second phase could give increased paternal rights among other measures.
The government has published forms for helping companies implement Flexible Working here.