Telework Series Part 1: Work is Something You Do, Not Someplace You Go

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Paul is communications director for Mobility Lab. He specializes in storytelling and editing, as well as environmental and pop-culture issues related to transportation.
July 12, 2012

Chuck Wilsker

This is the first in a four-part series about the state of telework. It looks at why an idea as great as sliced bread hasn’t reached its full potential. Subsequent parts of the series will examine how telework benefits employers, how it relates to gas prices, and various signs of hope for telework’s future.

The series is based on my interview with Chuck Wilsker (pictured left), who is a member of The Mobility Collaborative, consisting of some of the world’s top thinkers on transportation options, and President and CEO of The Telework Coalition, the leading telework non-profit in the United States. 

Since telework is such a no-brainer in many ways, why hasn’t it taken off as much as one would think?

There have been many reasons over the years, including resistance to change, technology issues, and security concerns.

Another reason is the word “telework” itself. It has carried some baggage, including not only the reasons I just mentioned, but also that many people just don’t understand what it means.Some think it refers to “telemarketers” who call at all of the wrong times. We’re starting to see more migration from using “telework” to using “mobility, especially with the proliferation of smart phones and pad devices.

One thing we’ve found is that people who ask for teleworking or telecommuting arrangements from their employers are more readily accepted when they use the term “telework” because it contains the word work.

Also, according to a recent study, up to 40 percent of people in the U.S. either don’t want to telework, their office policies won’t allow it, or their jobs are not “teleworkable.” Still, one of the few negatives we hear from full-time teleworkers is that they sometimes feel isolated. Tech advances like videoconferencing – such as what’s available from Skype and others – are playing a big role in both reducing that negative and enhancing the overall telework experience.

A surfer does a little teleworking from the beach

Where is the biggest resistance to teleworking?

In addition to the ones I’ve mentioned, top-level and mid-level managers still love looking out of a corner office at their minions. It scares them to think that, now, they could look out and their workplaces could be empty. They just don’t understand that their employees still need supervision, it must be done remotely with remote workers. Training can solve this problem.

What’s funny is that many of the organizations that have resistance to teleworking are the ones that have a lot of employees traveling for work and working from trains, planes, in airports and hotel rooms, and even sometimes from home, but they don’t telework! Ask many of the managers from these same organizations if they ever work from home or ever take their laptops and/or smartphones on vacation and check their work emails and they say, “Sure, but I’m not teleworking” Yeah, right! They just don’t have official policies where anyone talks about it in that way.

Surfer photo and homepage photo courtesy of citrixonline

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