When will teleworking take off?

When will teleworking take off?

Summary: Why do we insist on going into the office every day? The technology is there for us to work from home for part of the week.


Why do we insist on going into the office every day? The technology is there for us to work from home for part of the week.

In fact, the way we're starting to go about our business it doesn't matter where we are. In the last decade we've seen the notion of telecommuting moving from being accessible by phone, to having access to the corporate intranet, to the use of collaborative work tools and now, the introduction of on-the-fly video-conferencing.

Today on Twisted Wire we ask what's holding back the adoption of telecommuting. Are we about to see an explosion in its adoption?

You'll hear from:

  • Oscar Trimboli, director of Microsoft Australia's information worker group
  • Hugh Saddington, group manager strategy at Telstra
  • Mike Mansbach, global head of Sales at Citrix
  • HR Shiever, APAC head at Citrix Online
  • Andrew Cox, sales and marketing director at IP Systems
  • Chris Ryan, CEO of Attend Anywhere
  • Bevis England, director of Telework New Zealand
  • Greg Bourne, CEO of the World Wildlife Fund

Add your comments in the Talkback section at the end of this post.

Topics: Telcos, Virtualization, Telstra


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • Why not

    It has not really taken off because old school micro managers think effective staff sit at their desks. They need to see them. It is a lack of trust
  • Agree but..

    I believe it's mostly cultural and points to a lack of trust by management in their workforce.

    Many roles (ie front counter) are not telecommutable. There is also a substantial section of business that requires face to face interaction on a daily bassis to achieve desired business outcomes.

    Finally, although there's been substantial telecommuting solutions/toolset available for over a decade now, most large corporate's business systems are simply not accesable from external connections, and the cost to integrate these solutions do not stack up.
  • Fibre to the kitchen

    Text and voice communications are limiting especially compared with full video collaboration. Rich, interactive communication is the most effective way to build trust and rapport with our colleagues, customers and partners, and only high resolution video can come close to providing a similar experience. The lack of connectivity to homes and businesses will continue to limit remote working.

    On another note, the benefits of teleworking are greatest for women, who still provide a disproportionate amount of unpaid work at home. With a declining female representation in technology (including decision-makers in the remote-working and collaboration space) there has been a failure to advocate by and for women for flexible working.
  • Teleworking

    Some common sense reasons why it is and will continue to be slow to catch on.
    1. Unlike many IT focused people, real people like social interaction, the face to face type.
    2. It's good to get a break from the spouse and kids for a while each day.
    3. A 5 minute face to face conversation can often avoid many protracted emails over 2-3 days.
    4. Most people do more than just go to the office when they "go to the office". Can't do these sitting at a desk in your house.
    5. Association with place. It may be strange to the IT only crowd but many people do associate function with place. Home: relaxing, eating, putting up with screaming kids, social phone calls etc. Office: work focus, no screaming kids, no nagging spouse, no social interruptions, just a boss that may be pleasant or unpleasant. If the latter change jobs.
  • why not, at least part of the time?

    Except perhaps for hard core coders, most of us probably need to be physically present some of the time at work.

    But there is no reason why up to at least 50% of my work couldn't not be done at home. The only snag it that the University I work for basically still has a 20th century attitude towards working from home, although working conditions in general are pretty good. Basically it comes down to lack of trust and lack of appreciation of the value to the organisation of Systems administrators working from home.

    For example, we can perform out-of-hours downtime without needing to come in to work at 4am.

    The sad thing is that we still do it, but it has to be done 'informally' as they don't recognise either the need for it or the value of it.
  • Teleworking

    Add to that, eating far more than is necessary, or what is inconvenient when working in an office environment. I have been working from home for the past 6 months, and have put on 13kgs. (Too easy to keep snacking through the day, at home.)
  • I'm there already

    It took many years and a move to a more remote location but I managed to set this up a successful sheddy-commuting scenario this year. I currently live around 130km from my workplace and attend site only two days a week, staying overnight. This is only ideal if you have a permanent place to bed down and want to avoid excess travel or accomodation costs.

    And granted that there is really no effective way of meeting several people in the same room or being able to touch and manipulate objects in the workplace, this time on site is still necessary. I for one don't want to be sitting in my pyjamas when a server is being restarted.

    This part time teleworking is probably not quite ideal but until such time as workplaces can all install a fleet of remote controlled robots to perform the on site actions, it will have to suffice.

    Still, teleworking can still be quite an effective way of reducing fossil fuel use and time wasted in traffic. If your company can acquire those savings, it will go some way against their own environmental offsets.
  • tele-absence... that's a good one!!

    interesting that it took a competitor to the conference call to come up with a known weak link in the offsite connection that is a conference call.

    location, location, location.... that's what its all about.. isn't it??

    We will all need tv studio style office spaces to be able to have on camera conversations, the open plan office is not really ideal conditions for video, given the distractions and background movements that can show up.

    The systems that you use in an office environment often don't operate as efficiently through firewalls, etc, obviously the faster the connection the better, but there is rarely compareable process speeds between office to home transaction time.

    Remote offices are a fact of life today, offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, etc are all linked together usually on conference calls, and I had to giggle when I heard the tele-absence joke, i like it.

    There is a so much in non-verbal conversation that goes unrecognised and so much lack of attention when it comes to putting people together on a call that can just waste the day away.

    I agree with the call about trust, there is definitely an issue between manager and staff that needs to be over come and admit there are distractions at home, but there are quite a few in the office too. This where YOUR own responsibility to demonstate one's own dedication to task to manage the distractions.

    Interesting topic Phil, see how many more decades it takes to really evolve...
  • In Addition

    Whilst there can be great benefits to working from home (already described by other entries) .... there can in many cases also be great interruptions .i.e the fact it's home and in many cases has other family members who expect interaction with Mum or Dad.
  • But that's a good thing

    Yes, with a 2 year old at home, I know that one well. But you can work in the evening - so getting to see more of dad has to be a good thing doesn't it?
  • Telecommuting leads to HIGHER PROFITS

    Many positions are perfect for telecommuting, like many IT positions. The benefits are obvious, from worker satisfaction through to less office space required. Organisations will gain happier and more loyal and productive workers, who will not leave the organisation. Overheads will be less for companies, allowing them to invest in other activities, or even adding these savings directly to the bottom line.

    I have been campaigning for telecommuting for a long time now. I have come to realise that although the benefits seem obvious, you need to strongly consider the nature of the obstacles. People have "come to work" for years now. This is not just a proximity issue, it affects the very nature of the workforce. This is a massive shift in mindset, and these mindsets are much harder to change than you might think.

    So before approaching your boss and suggesting that you work from home, just stand back, take a deep breathe, and ask your self "what is in it for the organisation?" If you can answer that question, you are will be much closer to being able to work from home.

    Remember - its not about the technology...in my humble opinion.
  • Management Suspicion

    I'm pretty experienced in most areas of IT and yet even in the office I find it difficult to appreciate the effort that goes into so many IT tasks. Most managers aren't any where as IT savvy as I am and so it is difficult to keep a finger on the pulse of progress etc. It usually comes down to looking at employees body language etc and noticing changes from established norms.
    When a worker is performing work remotely it creates an even greater conceptual gap. There are certainly standard tasks that are well understood that can be done more effectively remotely however even this risks creating suspicion for those whose onsite presence is necessary.
    We will no doubt see growth in telecommuting, but don't hold your breath waiting for workplaces everywhere to transform overnight.
  • Ignored rural areas

    The politicians still think that Australia only exists in the metropolitan areas. The telecommunication facilities outside the metro areas are so behind that teleworking will never take off if nothing changes.
    The metro areas get more crowded and people will be living further from the CBDs, so to support teleworking the politicians need to change their mindset and include the rural areas in their policies and plans.
  • Boundaries

    While I would like to work at home, this is a good point. When your home becomes your workplace, you associate it with work, not with relaxing and the boundary between work and play is blurred - it's blurred enough already and that is always in favour of the employer who has about 100 ways to get hold of you now whenever they want to. 8.30 to 5.30 to me with my turn on call is enough - when I go home, it's not to work.
  • Teleworkers opinion

    I knew a Lady who did teleworking for a year due to health reasons. She actually was more productive and happier with her job. She said To be able to teleworking you need to organize a meeting with your boss and show them the benefits. Don't do this on your first day, wait 6 - 12 months and they might let you do it .