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Developments in networking and collaboration technologies offer new opportunities for employees to telework. Even though studies indicate that teleworkers can be more productive when working away from the office, results are mostly self-reported. Additionally, no studies have yet explored telework in terms of productivity and wellbeing from both a managerial and employee perspective in Australia. We followed a qualitative research design to explore telework, productivity and wellbeing, as well as a quantitative component to measure daily experiences of workers on telework and non-telework days. Findings indicate that 1) productivity is a management concern and requires a different management approach to yield productive outcomes; 2) high-level IT support is required for workers to be more productive; and 3) the ability to telework fosters wellbeing, which in turn contributes to productivity.
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www.broadband.unimelb.edu.au
Telework, productivity and
wellbeing
Productivity [in terms of telework] is to be able to work through the activities
that I need to get done within the time frame given. So the ability to meet the
deadlines I have imposed on myself.
Strategic Solutions Director, InfraStructCo
I think there’s wellbeing associated with having time and space to focus on a
task so I think in terms of job satisfaction to be able to move on some tasks
that are enhanced by a quieter work environment which is focused on tasks,
because the way I organise it I’m very clear about what I want to achieve
on those days I work from home. It’s satisfying and it flows on to wellbeing
- feeling that you can actually progress tasks very effectively by the use of
telework.
Project Manager, GovernCo
2
Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society
Level 4, Building 193
The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
ISBN 978 0 7340 4801 1
© The University of Melbourne 2012
This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the
Copyright Act 1968, no part may be produced by any process without
prior written permission from the University of Melbourne.
November 2012
Project team
Rachelle Bosua, Marianne Gloet, Sherah Kurnia, Antonette Mendoza (Department of Computing and Information
Systems, the University of Melbourne) and Jongsay Yong (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social
Research, the University of Melbourne)
Acknowledgements
This project was supported by the Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES), The University of Melbourne
and Cisco. We acknowledge the generous time and willingness of all participants who took part in this study.
Additionally we thank Mohammed Mazhraehshahi who developed a website that was used to collect productivity
and wellbeing day experience data of participants in this study.
Further information
Rachelle Bosua: rachelle.bosua@unimelb.edu.au
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
3
This project explored perceptions, issues and key considerations that relate to productivity and
wellbeing of hybrid teleworkers in Australia. Hybrid telework is a way of work in which teleworkers
work between one and two days from a location other than the workplace; in most cases this means
working from home.
We interviewed 28 employees across six different medium to large organisations from private and
public industry sectors. We were interested in both management and employee perspectives of
telework in terms of productivity and wellbeing. Interviews were conducted to gather rich data about
participants’ perceptions and feelings about telework, the impact of telework on individual and team
productivity and individual wellbeing. Additionally we analysed daily logs of employees’ telework
experiences from three teams of teleworkers across four work days (two telework days and two non
telework days).
Results relating to individual and team productivity were positive and indicate that telework is a viable
alternative to face-to-face work that can yield productive outcomes for both employers and employees.
The study also revealed that successful telework is contingent on a number of factors, including the
following:
• Telework requires a different management style based on trust and management of clearly
defined individual and team deliverables based on shorter (or day-to-day) time frames.
• Trust from a management and worker perspective is important to foster a productive work
environment.
• Specific collaborative IT tools are required to enable teleworkers to work seamlessly from
anywhere, and contribute to individual and team productivity.
Results on individual wellbeing and telework were positive and unanimous across all participants in
terms of the following:
• Working away from the office engenders a more positive attitude towards work.
• Teleworkers feel ‘more in control’ of their work, which in turn eases work-related stress.
• Family and work life can be better balanced when working away from the office.
• Fewer or no work-related interruptions add to a general feeling of wellbeing.
• The ability to hybrid telework often makes workers feel more productive, fosters individual
wellbeing, promotes better work-life balance and creates a more positive attitude towards work.
Executive Summary
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
4
Executive Summary 3
1 Telework, productivity and wellbeing 5
2 Collecting evidence: interviews and day experience data logs 7
3 Telework enabling productivity and wellbeing 10
4 Implications and further research 21
References 22
Contents
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
5
1.1 Telework
Telework (also called ‘teleworking’ or ‘telecommuting’) is defined as “…a flexible work arrangement whereby
workers work in locations, remote from their central offices or production facilities, with no personal contact
with co-workers, but the ability to communicate with co-workers using ICT” (Di Martino & Wirth 1990). Telework
is not a new concept and has been around for at least twenty years. However it is only recently that telework
has become a new, attractive way of working with the uptake of modern Web 2.0 and mobile technologies
(Richardson and Benbunan-Fich, 2011; Turetken et al, 2011). Recent developments in networking and
collaboration tools such as these are rapidly changing traditional workplaces around the globe (Bayrak, 2012;
Richardson and Benbunan-Fich, 2011).
Currently more than 43 million workers in the US are hybrid teleworkers, meaning they occasionally work from
their homes or away from the office. A 2009 forecast indicates that telecommuting would rise to include 43% of
US workers by 2016 (Shadler, 2009). UK statistics indicate that approximately 3.2 million people were conducting
one or more forms of telework in 2007. In 2005 the Czech Republic was the EU country with the highest
incidence of employees that telework a quarter of their time or more (15.2%) (EirOnline, 2010). Since definitions
of telework vary throughout Europe, there are currently no recent, comparable statistics available on telework for
both the EU and UK.
The ability to work from anywhere using modern collaboration and communication technologies has not yet
been fully embraced by Australian organisations. Compared to other OECD countries in the world, Australia lags
behind in terms of telework, with approximately 17% of its workforce working away from the office at various times
(ABS, 2008). Considering the social, economic and organisational benefits of telework, it is unclear what factors
hinder the uptake of telework in Australia.
Even though there is a large body of research on telework covering a variety of aspects and related areas, there
is a noticeable gap in the research that explores the impact of telework on productivity and wellbeing. If telework
can enable a more productive workforce, with a better sense of wellbeing, then organisations – including those in
Australia - may be better empowered to drive changes in their workplaces. This research explores these issues
through management and worker perspectives on telework, productivity and wellbeing.
1. Telework, productivity and wellbeing
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
6
1.2 Productivity
It is argued that variations of telework (e.g. part-time or partial telework arrangements) may boost organisational
and individual productivity (Pyöria, 2011). However, claims about higher productivity are often self-reported and
made without careful consideration of how managers perceive individual and team productivity.
Productivity can relate to an individual or a team and is a measure of how effectively and efficiently assigned
tasks are completed over time. More specifically in terms of telework, it can be described as the attainment of
measurable goals within time and on budget.
The measurement of productivity is complex since there are a number of variables that need to be considered
such as: the type of task(s) to be completed, level of skills and/or expertise required to complete one or more
tasks, and resources available and required to support successful completion of tasks (Baker, Avery and
Crawford, 2006).
Productivity measures from the software development domain (in the form of estimates that relate to programmer
productivity) have been suggested for telework (Westfall, 2004). However, these measures cannot be applied to
yield an accurate measurement of productivity in the context of telework because not all tasks can be measured
in this manner. Additionally our research findings indicate that there are key factors that contribute to teleworker
productivity from a management and worker perspective as outlined in Section 3.
1.3 Wellbeing
In addition to a lack of research on the link between telework and productivity, there is also a gap in the research
that explores the link between telework and wellbeing.
Prior studies on wellbeing argue that the level and combination of certain features in the workplace affect an
individual’s wellbeing and have tested the relationship between job characteristics and health outcomes. Specific
aspects that determine an individual’s wellbeing in terms of work may include: an individual’s perceived control
over his/her work, application of individual skills in the work, expectations of the work, degree of repetition, clarity,
fairness of rewards, and feelings of satisfaction (Jeurissen and Nyklicek, 2001; Warr 1990).
In this study we focused on individuals’ perceptions of contributing factors of wellbeing and the extent to which
productivity increases an individual’s sense of wellbeing.
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
7
In an attempt to explore telework, productivity and wellbeing, we followed a predominantly qualitative research
method which we complemented with some quantitative data in the form of participants’ logging their actual day
experiences of four consecutive working days as outlined in Section 2.2.
2.1 Study participants
We collected data from 28 participants, including 25 hybrid teleworkers and three non-teleworkers across six
Australian-based organisations from the education sector, government sector and private enterprise. Participants
were based in various locations, including Greater Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and
Dubbo, and were carefully chosen based on their hybrid mode of telework. We were specifically interested in
both management and worker perspectives of telework. As a result we recruited teams of teleworkers from the
six case organisations so that we could get management, team and individual perspectives on telework. Three
non-teleworkers were also invited to share their views on productivity and wellbeing. Table 1 summarises case
organisations, industry sectors and participant details for the study. Pseudonyms have been used for the case
organisation names to protect the organisations’ identity.
Case organisation
pseudonym
Type of industry Number of participants
and team details
Roles interviewed
1. EduCo Tertiary: Research Institute 1 manager Director
2. EducoIT Tertiary: TAFE 1 manager and 2 workers
(full team participated)
Infrastructure and IT manager
Senior Systems Administrator
and Network Administrator (non-
teleworker)
3. NetworkCo Network and collaborative
solutions
5 managers and 5 workers
(1 team with 1 manager and
3 workers participated)
Regional Sales Managers, Project
Managers (including 1 non-tele-
worker), Consulting Engineer, and
Regional Sales Team members
4. GovernCo Council 3 managers and 1 worker Project Managers and
Education Officer
5. InfraStructCo Network infrastructure solutions 2 managers and 1 senior
role
Strategic Solutions Director,
National Solutions Architect
Manager and Solutions Architect
6. TestCo Banking: Investment and Su-
perannuation services
1 manager and
6 workers
(full team participated)
Application Testing Manager
and 6 Testers including 1 non-
teleworker
2. Collecting evidence: interviews and day experience data logs
Table 1. Details of participating case study organisations
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
8
2.2 Data collection
Data collection took place over a period of three months and involved two phases. The first phase comprised an
individual interview with each participant. Interview questions focused on capturing participants’ perceptions of
productivity when teleworking as opposed to non-teleworking, as well as problems or aspects that hindered or
impacted on productivity and wellbeing when teleworking as opposed to non-teleworking.1
The second phase of data collection involved three teams from EducoIT, TestCo and NetworkCo and required
participants from each team to log their daily telework experiences in terms of productivity and wellbeing over
four working days (two telework days and two non-telework days) during one week of each team’s choice.
The aim of the data collection was to get an idea of actual hours worked, feelings and attitudes towards work,
tasks planned and actually completed on both telework days and non-telework days. For this purpose a small
website was designed to collect some demographic data relating to costs, expenses, and travel times for each
day as well as data concerning productivity and wellbeing. Data specific to productivity and wellbeing required
participants to log data prior to starting their workday and at the end of each workday. At the start of a day, data
gathered included the actual start time of their workday and tasks planned, while end-of-the-day data included
the number of tasks completed, approximate time taken for each task, an indication of the number and type
of interruptions each day, and individuals’ general feelings of their day’s productivity and wellbeing. Figure 1
presents one of the day experience data log screens from the website.
1 Interviews took approximately 45 to 60 minutes. We used a combination of face-to-face and telephone/video-call interviews. Face-to-face
interviews were conducted with participants from EduCo, EducoIT, GovernCo and TestCo at their respective office locations, while telephone
or Internet-based voice call interviews were conducted using commercial video conferencing platforms with NetworkCo and InfraStructCo
participants. All interviews were transcribed verbatim.
Figure 1: Example screen from the day experience data log website
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
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2.3 Data analysis
Interviews were transcribed and a thematic analysis of both the interview transcripts and logged data was
undertaken. The analysis focused on identifying elements that impacted on telework productivity from a
management and worker perspective as well as individuals’ perceptions of wellbeing. Day experience data
contained in the data logs was analysed by comparing collected data from individuals and teams and linking this
quantitative data with the qualitative interview data.
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
10
3.1 The importance of IT as an enabler for telework productivity
Across the research cases investigated in this study, it was evident that adequate technology to enable and
support telework is required to improve productivity. As such, basic collaboration and networking tools, mobile
devices and a supportive network infrastructure need to be in place in order to achieve productive outcomes
in terms of telework. Networking tools comprise networking infrastructure, applications and devices that allow
communication and collaborative access to content, workspaces and individual desktops.
Based on the research cases investigated, it was clear that organisations can be grouped according to three
different levels of IT support for telework that impacted on productivity i.e. high-level IT support, medium-level IT
support and low-level IT support as outlined in Table 2.
Type of IT support
for Telework per case
organisation
Case organisation Types of tools and applications required in ‘away from work’
locations
High-level IT support
Multiple tools and devices
are used and in most
cases provided by the or-
ganisation to fully support
telework
NetworkCo and
InfrastrucCo
Audio, video-conferencing and online presence tools (e.g. WebX
and Skype), instant messaging and chat tools (e.g Jabber, MSN),
laptops, mobile and handheld devices (iPhones, iPads), high-speed
internet connection to allow for a seamless office ‘working away’
experience. Electronic calendar tools (iCal), multiple screens for
visual display of work, virtual desktops, collection of Web-based
tools and cloud services that allow working away from the office (e.g.
web-based email, Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint online)
Medium-level IT support
Organisational support
limited to ‘Bring Your Own
Devices’ (BYOD) with
some tools provided by
the organisation
TestCo and EducoIT Medium level networking and collaboration tools that allow access
to files and servers (e.g. audio/video tools) mobiles phones, limited
collaboration between team members and limited use of handheld
devices. Dial-up conferencing tools, medium speed internet connec-
tion, and some Web-based tools.
Low-level IT support
Limited to no
organisational support to
provide tools and devices
for telework
GovernCo and EduCo Limited networking and collaboration tools and devices. Low speed
internet connection to access files on servers, web-based email,
mobile phones and landlines
A participant from one of the high-level IT support case organisations indicated that he was fortunate that his
organisation provided a range of tools for telework, and that access to these tools contributed to his productivity:
With [NetworkCo] being a technology company they give you everything, all the tools and
technology you need to do your job well.
Project Manager, NetworkCo
3. Telework enabling productivity and wellbeing
Table 2: Types of IT support and tools that enable and support productive telework
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
11
Another manager from NetworkCo confirmed that this organisation was at the high-end of the IT support
spectrum for telework and that his home office enabled him to continue his work seamlessly from home:
We’re at the higher end of the scale. We are provided with what’s called a virtual office
environment. I have a router in my home, so my home office effectively becomes an
extension of [NetworkCo’s] environment. So there is no difference in the environment
between office and home, so technology is the enabler.
Regional Sales Manager, NetworkCo
On the other hand, participants from one of the medium-level IT support organisations indicated that
technologies allowing virtual collaboration using video (e.g. Skype) could enhance their telework experience
and improve productivity. This organisation provided email and remote server access, while individuals had to
use their personal mobile phones for telework. One participant indicated how the use of email impacted on her
productivity:
I think that better technology could improve it [the telework experience]. I know there are
some companies that use Skype or other technologies, and that might be useful. The only
thing you find sometimes you might be emailing someone with a question and you’re waiting
on a response and it’s taking a bit of time.
Tester, TestCo
Another participant from the same organisation confirmed the need to have video conferencing tools to allow for
meetings with multiple members in the testing team:
With the current IT you can do the job OK. But we need something more, definitely Skype or
video conferencing. Video conferencing would be fantastic. Now we are using only dial-up so
we can call only one person.
Tester, TestCo
A participant from one of the low-level IT support organisations was conscious that her organisation has not
yet advanced to a level of IT sophistication to fully support telework. She expressed her concern with respect
to the required support from the organisation’s IT department and the need for similar technologies to enable
communication for telework:
What I haven’t got is visual access. Videoconferencing is expensive still, unless you use
Skype, and [the organisation] hasn’t advanced to that yet, even though the technology
is there. Whatever goes on my laptop has to be put on by the IT department, it has to be
consistent and they have to be able to support it. And you have to have the equipment for
videoconferencing. And then for me all the other people we engage with would have to have
the same technology in order for us to communicate with them that way.
Project Manager, GovernCo
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
12
Since collaborative and communication technologies are evolving and getting more sophisticated, many
respondents felt that technology will positively impact on telework and improve individual productivity to work
from anywhere as one participant indicated:
There are a lot of tools that are coming out or are already out where the end user experience
is quite seamless. So once it’s implemented you don’t need to be a technologist to use it
effectively. So when the rest of the technology catches up, and we get better broadband
speeds and phone coverage, and as everything comes together, there’s no reason why
people couldn’t do telework rather than sitting in Sydney traffic for up to four hours a day.
Project Manager, NetworkCo
3.2 Telework and productivity: management guidelines
Productivity did not appear to be a major concern for organisations that have developed a culture of telework and
were at the high-level end of IT support for telework (NetworkCo and IntrastructCo). Two participants from these
organisations commented as follows on productivity:
Personally I think I am a lot more productive when I telework, I can remove myself from
distractions, I can focus on my work, I can disappear from people quite easily. When I’m in the
office, yes I can turn down my phone, put ‘do not disturb’ on the door but people can still see
I’m there, they can still knock on my door and interrupt me.
Strategic Solutions Director, InfraStructCo
and
What I’ve found with telework is that it gives you space in a different environment, whether
it be at home, whether it be the coffee shop, or just in the office wherever you can just find
some space to make sure you have a plan of attack for the day, week, month, year and make
sure you’re tracking to it.
Project Manager, NetworkCo
Summary: IT Support for telework
• IT is an important enabler of productive telework.
• Medium to high-level IT support, particularly communication and collaborative IT tools, are
required to increase individual productivity.
• Workers can be more productive when teleworking, provided they have appropriate IT
tools allowing them to continue their work seamlessly from their ‘anywhere work’ offices.
Therefore, in order for organisations to support a productive teleworking workforce, they need to
invest in IT equipment, platforms and applications to support ‘anywhere work’ offices.
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
13
Even participants from the medium to low-level IT support organisations felt that they were more productive when
working from home:
I’m also more productive when I work from home. In my job I tend to get interrupted all the
time - sometimes it’s important, sometimes not. But when I am here, people come to me all
the time. It’s a very rare day when I set myself five things to get done that they will get done.
Senior Systems Administrator, EducoIT
and
I am much better working from home [productive], I couldn’t do what I do at work. I work in an
open plan office and I work much better in a secluded environment. I can concentrate deeply
here [from home when teleworking], I can’t do that at work.
Project Manager, GovernCo
A number of participants emphasised the importance of trust in a telework relationship between a manager
and worker. It was clear from responses that trust is built over time as a result of one’s behaviour, as two of the
participants indicated:
I found it difficult to find out what they [teleworkers] were doing – and it all came down to
trust, could we trust them to be productive and do the work without them being in the office.
And it came down to a point of getting to know the team and we soon got to know who could
be trusted and who couldn’t and the ones we suspected weren’t doing the right thing, we
monitored them closely.
Test Manager, TestCo
and
It’s funny. When you start the job you are given the trust, and it’s yours to lose if you don’t do
the right thing. And then you are judged by results, so if I deliver the results then I have the
trust of my managers
Project Manager, NetworkCo
Some participants indicated that they considered themselves as productive teleworkers since they are driven,
can work individually and have the ability to self-organise. One participant commented that these aspects were
important for teleworkers:
What I am looking for is autonomous independent people who can work on their own.
National Solutions Architect, InfraStructCo
and
I’m very quick at what I do, but I’m also a bit of a workaholic. I get in there [my home office]
and get stuff done, and nothing is stopping me from finishing off tasks later in the day.
Project Manager, NetworkCo
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
14
Comments from managers of teleworkers also indicated that from a productivity perspective, managers needed
to use a different management approach in telework environments . This approach, based on trust, required
managers to have regular virtual meetings with individuals and teams that focused on task-based deliverables,
as one of the managers indicated:
Again a thing is the maturity level and the trust that I have for my team, I have no doubt that
they are doing the right thing by it. In fact I feel that I get a lot more productivity from my team
with telework. I let them [my teams] set their strategy. They share that with me, and what
they’re planning to do over the next few weeks.
Senior Manager, NetworkCo
The same participant indicated that he had to have regular team and one-on-one meetings to track progress:
Sometimes in the team meetings, the one-on-ones, I can delve into it [the work] a bit deeper.
The team meetings are most often used to report on how we’re tracking, give a high level view
of where we need to be going.
Senior Manager, NetworkCo
Summary: Management Guidelines
• Telework requires a different approach and style in terms of managing teleworkers.
Managers need to set clear tasks and articulate outcomes to be achieved over shorter
periods of time. This requires frequent online or face-to-face meetings to ensure that tasks
are actually completed in time and expected productivity outcomes from individuals and
teams as a whole are achieved.
• Trust is important to foster a productive working environment (from both the manager and
employee perspective). As a result, managers of teleworkers should not be concerned
about where work is done, as long as workers are productive and clearly demonstrate that
tasks are completed successfully and on time.
• Frequent meetings (at least weekly and some even daily) are required with individuals and
teams to ensure that workers are productive and meet task deadlines.
• Managers need to carefully select employees for telework since productive teleworkers
tend to be driven, self-motivated and independent workers who are well-organised and can
deliver results as expected.
• Not all roles and tasks are conducive to telework. For instance, some roles requiring a high
level of customer contact may not be suitable for telework. On the other hand, cognitive
tasks requiring high levels of concentration are usually best done away from work
interruptions, and managers need to exercise sound judgment in determining the type of
tasks that are suitable for telework.
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
15
3.3 Telework and productivity: worker guidelines
Individual teleworkers were confident that they were more productive when teleworking as opposed to
non-teleworking. Two participants from case organisations that provided high-level IT support for telework
(NetworkCo and InfrastrucCo) commented as follows:
Without question I am more productive when I telework. There is no need to commute to the
office every day, so on telework days I actually get more work done.
Project Manager, NetworkCo
and
I think my productivity [when teleworking] is heaps better than it is at work. There’s less
distraction, you can focus more, I just feel like it gets me ready for the next week, and I
believe it’s much better than had I been here in the office.
Education Officer, GovernCo
The second data collection phase required individuals in teams of teleworkers to participate by logging their day
experience data. Getting full and large enough teams together proved to be difficult, but ultimately, three teams
(NetworkCo, TestCo and EducoIT) participated in this data collection phase. Evidence from the day experience
data logs of these teams, indicated that participants felt that they were more productive on telework days as
opposed to non-telework days. An analysis of the data logs indicate that participants managed to complete more
planned tasks on telework days as opposed to non-telework days. Data logs for one team (TestCo) indicated that
frequent work interruptions impacted on productivity across the team on non-teleworking days. The duration of
individual work-related interruptions on non-telework days lasted between 30 minutes and 3 hours each across
the teams. Minimal work-related interruptions of a shorter duration (and for some workers no interruptions) were
logged by team members on telework days.
Participants’ comments logged in terms of productivity on telework days across the three participating
organisations were positive and included comments such as the following:
Far more productive than prior day in the office and It is great to work from home at times to
get on top of some outstanding issues - this enables one to be ready for additional workloads
and requirements from the business.
participants from NetworkCo
Very productive today as I completed my tasks with little interruptions or software issues. Also
working from home meant less interruptions from colleagues and Was able to get though a
large amount of processing with no disruptions.
participants from TestCo
I felt very productive today, as work was easy to get started - when [I am] at home less social
catch up was required. All tasks were completed.
participant from TestCo
and
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
16
Very productive as [there is] less social time than when onsite at work. Also easier to get
going and working when at home. Also tend to take less breaks.
participant from EducoIT
Self-reported productivity for the largest team, TestCo, was verified with the team manager. Overall, participants
from this team rated their own productivity higher on telework days as opposed to non-telework days.
Following the day experience data logs, a short telephone meeting was conducted with the team manager. She
responded favourably about the team’s overall performance during the week of day experience data logging.
She commented that her team’s productivity was high and indicated that she was ‘very pleased’ with her team’s
performance during the day experience data log week, particularly on telework days. She explained that a few
planned tasks were not completed by the team but explained that this was due to external circumstances beyond
the team’s control and not as a result of individual productivity.
Productivity comments from participants in the case organisations on non-telework days included:
Follow-up required the following day due to lack of time to complete all work and Face to
face meetings were productive but general office time put aside for follow ups had constant
interruptions.
NetworkCo
and
Not as productive as possible. Delays by others impacted [on] work and I am satisfied that I
achieved quite a few things today even though I didn’t complete all the tasks on my list.
TestCo
and
Interruptions slowed down my productivity and Less people at work today, so less
interruptions which help on getting task done.
EducoIT
Additionally, across all three teams, day experience data logs indicate that participants tend to work longer days
when they telework. Working hours on telework days were on average 1.5 to 3 hours longer than non-telework
days. Starting times on telework days also varied and a number of participants made an earlier start on telework
days (starting as early as 6:30am) as opposed to non-telework days.
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
17
Summary: Worker Guidelines
An analysis of the interview data and deeper analysis of the day experience data logs indicate
that there are key issues that should be taken into consideration by organisations considering
the introduction of telework:
• Teleworkers are more productive if they have the ability to work away from the office
on demanding tasks that are difficult, complex and non-routine (e.g. writing of policy
documents, planning and involved in problem solving processes).
• Even though teleworkers felt that they are more productive when working away from the
office, they may end up working longer work hours than required when working away from
the office.
• Often teleworkers will make productive use of the time saved when not having to commute to
the office.
• Teleworkers felt that while a hybrid arrangement to telework contributed to productivity,
they prefer to keep telework days to an average of two days per week. They felt the need
for social interaction and face-to-face conversations with colleagues to mitigate a feeling of
isolation that often occurred when teleworking.
• Teleworkers need adequate training in the use of IT tools to ensure that they are productive
in delivering task outcomes when working away from the office.
• A suitable ‘away from work’ environment with adequate IT support allowing teleworkers to
continue their office work seamlessly allows for more productive teleworkers.
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
18
3.4 Telework and wellbeing
In the interviews, participants agreed unanimously that there is a positive relationship between telework and
wellbeing. The flexibility and ‘head-space’ enabled by telework made workers feel more productive and
contributed to individual wellbeing as three participants indicated:
I think generally it [telework] has a more positive impact on my wellbeing. I get flexibility from
telework, I can see more of my kids, take my daughter to school and also pick her up – these
are things that regular office workers wouldn’t be able to do.
Project Manager, NetworkCo
and
I think I probably feel more refreshed when I’m at home, I almost feel like it’s a weekend
sometimes because I enjoy my work. It’s not something like I feel I have to do. Normally by
Thursday if I am not teleworking I would feel my energy ebbing away, then thank God it’s
Friday, I would be tired by the end of the week and you need the weekend to recover. But
having a Wednesday as a telework day, I have much more energy remaining for the end of the
week. Maybe that’s because I get a chance to do stocktaking and clear the decks, clear my
emails, when I telework mid-week.
Director, EduCo
And
I guess the positives are less stress, no commuting on telework days, feeling comfortable
when I’m working. I experience less anxiety on telework days, and have better work-life
balance.
Project Manager, NetworkCo
Day experience data logs specific to wellbeing required participants to log their feelings in terms of morale,
control over their work, job satisfaction, intensity of their work and pressure on telework days and non-telework
days using a rating scale of 1 to 7 (with 1=low, 4=medium and 7=high). Additionally participants were required
to document their overall feelings of the day’s work in terms of wellbeing and productivity. All team members
rated their wellbeing as ‘high’ (between 5 and 7) on the rating scale for telework days. Wellbeing data log
responses on telework days for each of the teams (NetworkCo, TestCo and EducoIT) were as follows:
Great and Good balance between home/work being able to assist with the family and still get
a number of tasks completed.
NetworkCo
and
Excellent wellbeing and More than happy and stress free
TestCo
and
Greater level of satisfaction and I felt great - I was more relaxed not having to get up so early
to get to work. Overall a positive day
EducoIT
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
19
Some day experience data logged by participants on non-telework days was less enthusiastic as indicated by
ratings of ‘medium’ and ‘medium high’ (4 and 5) on non-telework days. Remarks logged by two participants were
as follows:
I feel that I have achieved an average amount of work.....so I will be behind again [tomorrow] –
[feeling] a little pressured and Productivity average to high... however stress levels increased
due to number of interruptions
NetworkCo
and
Pretty happy and Good
TestCo
Summary: Telework and wellbeing
Overall, across the cases it was clear that in terms of wellbeing:
• The ability to work away from the office enabled a better work-life balance on telework days,
which engendered a positive attitude towards work
• Working away from the office allowed for alternate activities (e.g. an hour of working instead
of driving in heavy traffic), which energized workers, resulting in less stress and allowing for
more productive work
• Workers could better balance family and work life, and the ability to have a presence at home
contributed to a more happy family life.
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
20
3.5 The future of telework
In general, participants were positive about the future of telework from a productivity and wellbeing perspective
and were of the opinion that managers need to understand the use and application of IT to better manage
teleworkers. It was clear that the notion of office work is changing with work becoming continuously more fluid
and mobile in terms of time and space. One of the participants commented as follows:
I believe it’s the way of the future, but managers need to understand and use technology in
order to manage telework effectively. Work is now highly mobile, changing all the time, and
more and more workers want flexibility in their jobs. Management needs to recognize this. But
I think that telework success depends on workers being self-motivated, self-disciplined and
self-driven.
Project Manager, NetworkCo
Another participant confirmed these sentiments and added that telework will grow based on its uptake as a mode
of working. Even though work is changing, it is also important that managers understand the context of telework
and prepare themselves for managing a new generation of workers.
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
21
4. Implications and further research
Our findings suggest that management concerns in terms of individual and team productivity are valid, but can
be ameliorated by addressing a few basic principles and concerns. One of the most important aspects involves
management perceptions and attitudes to telework from a productivity perspective. Management should ensure
that:
• Adequate IT support and training are provided to support teleworkers;
• Clear arrangements and guidelines are in place on how telework is structured and how outcomes are
measured and reported;
• There are regular assessments of teleworking arrangements, contracts and policies to ensure that the best
outcomes are met from both a management and teleworker perspective; and
• Organisations attract and invest in self-driven, talented and responsible workers to ensure productive work
outcomes.
Our study suggests that there are opportunities for further research. One such opportunity is to further explore the
relationship between productivity and wellbeing that include: identifying types of work arrangements, job design,
task division, award and appraisal schemes required to contribute to productivity and wellbeing. Additionally the
notion of productivity in terms of job performance from a Human Resource Management perspective requires
further research.
Telework, productivity and wellbeing
22
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st+2009+To+2016/fulltext/-/E-RES46635?objectid=RES46635
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Telework, productivity and wellbeing
23Telework, productivity and wellbeing
Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society
Level 4, Building 193
The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010
e: contact@broadband.unimelb.edu.au
www.broadband.unimelb.edu.au
... Further, home office adequacy appears to affect teleworking experiences profoundly and, as such, could inform FTI. For example, adequacy has been found to be associated with job satisfaction and perceptions of productive work (e.g., Bosua et al., 2013). Home office inadequacy has been found to be associated with negative physical and psychological outcomes (including occupational stress, e.g., Sethi et al., 2011;technostress, e.g., Gaudioso et al., 2017; musculoskeletal health, e.g., Sauter et al., 1991;Derjani Bayeh and Smith, 1999;Sethi et al., 2011). ...
... Rapid changes in both work and home environments due to the pandemic may have dampened the effect of job change. Third, the environmental resources of adequate ergonomics, technology, and document/data access (home office adequacy) had no observed effect despite their identified importance considering job satisfaction (Loghmani et al., 2013), productivity perceptions (Bosua et al., 2013;Pfnür et al., 2021), and health (Pereira et al., 2019). Ergonomics became a non-significant predictor after work privacy fit was added to the regression model. ...
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... Remote workers are facing difficulties such as loss of social contact and other psychosocial risks, such as isolation (Chawla et al., 2020;ILO, 2020). The new normal of work from home with work from office becoming an alternative has also led to increased workloads, longer working hours, reduced rest periods and has been proven to have undesired effect on the physical, psychological and productivity aspects of employees (Eldridge and Pabilonia, 2010;Wooden and Warren, 2004;Bloom et al., 2013;Bosua et al., 2013;Dockery and Bawa, 2014). Massive layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs due to pandemicgenerated global economic downturn have led to increased fear of economic loss, resulting in increased levels of uncertainty about job among workers (Carnevale and Hatak, 2020;ILO, 2020). ...
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... Historically, the logic behind flexible work arrangements has been to avoid losing valuable labor to factors such as childcare and family commitments [5,14], as well as to promote a more environmentally friendly way of working (eg, decreasing resources to commute) [15,16]. Well-being has been identified as a key factor behind productive remote working [17,18]. However, as a consequence of COVID-19, the number of people working remotely in the United Kingdom has increased to 13.02 million [10]. ...
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The article explores whether computing has increased productivity. It tries to find out the hype created over the use of telecommuters. The productivity issue is important because telecommuting is often suggested as an additional public policy option for mitigating traffic congestion and associated air pollution, as well as reducing dependence on energy imports. It is found that there is no guarantee that employees will actually devote all the extra time to more work than they would do in the office. From an employee relation's point of view, telecommuting consultants warn it would be bad policy to suggest or even imply that telecommuters should work extra hours. To put the productivity issue in context, the continuing emphasis on increasing productivity throughout the U.S. and world economies has been a major driving force for IT investments. It argues that there is a very telling indicator that telecommuting does not deliver, at least at the level of the whole organization, the productivity gains touted by consultants and vendors