The nature of work and the workplace

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The nature of work and the workplace has changed dramatically over the last two decades. These changes evolutionary from a technological standpoint and revolutionary in creating a new realm of management issues have resulted in both the opportunity and the need for flexible work arrangements. (Johnson, 1997) The new management challenges management traditions. It means a significant change in how we think about work and supervising employees. (Johnson, 1997)

Teleworking moves the work to wherever the people are giving the term office’ new meaning. It means breaking away from the idea that supervisors have to remain in a central location and manage by observation. (Vanderwielen, 1998) Teleworking strongly brings forth the issues of employee trust and empowerment. It also brings up supervisory challenges to keep teleworkers and integral part of the office team. Don’t assume that you don’t have the right tools for teleworking. You do. Existing supervisory skills translate well when overseeing teleworkers. Basic management skills are just as important for teleworkers as they are for people in the office. But you may need to tailor your supervision for those working at home by focusing more on results and less on observing your employees hard at work. (Anon, 1997)

Managers should also notice the following points: (Johnson, 1997) Use planning skills to effectively distribute work so that in-office personnel and teleworkers are treated equally. Today, many environmental impacts were produced by our daily activities. These impacts have tremendous social and economic costs. Teleshopping offers some hope for reducing our impacts on the planet and on each other. This section examines some of the way Teleshopping may facilitate such reductions. (Anon, 1997)

Reduction of Automobile Use and Non-renewable Resource Consumption by reducing commute trips and distances, telecommuting can reduce non-renewable resource consumption. Even as low-and zero-emission cars become more common, fossil fuels will power the vast majority of transportation for the foreseeable future. Large oil corporations simply have too much invested in their infrastructure to allow a rapid switch to solar powered electric transportation. By reducing trip distances and frequencies, overall fuel use by tele-commuters will be reduced. In addition, those teleshoppers will save themselves and society the related costs of operating motor vehicles. (Vanderwielen, 1998)

However, as Teleshopping reduces automobile trips, and as regulations increase the cost of automobile ownership and use, it is likely that we will see some decrease in automobile ownership rates for households that teleshop. Though causality is difficult to ascertain, it is likely the relationship is at least partially driven by increases in distances between points in homogeneous residential and commercial zones as city size increases.

Thus, if Teleshopping contributes to a multi-nucleated urban arrangement, where distances between homes, employment centres, shops, and services are shortened to the walkable scale, fuel use and car ownership rates may decrease (Anon, 1998b). Considering the high costs of simply owning a car, outside of operation and maintenance costs, reducing car ownership can be financially rewarding for former car owners. For telecommuters working at home, the costs of equipping and operating a home office, if not borne by their employer, may offset some of the savings gained by driving less.

Reductions in automobile use and ownership could cause financial hardships for some sectors of the economy. Revenue and taxes generated by the sales, servicing, and operation of motor vehicles provide many people with their livelihoods and many government agencies with portions of their operating budgets. There are no reliable predictions of future numbers of telecommuters, but it seems reasonable to predict that it will be a long time before telecommuting becomes widespread enough to affect incidental benefits of motor vehicle use. (Anon, 1998b)

Reduction of Demand for shopping Space

Widespread Teleshopping within a company reduces the office space needed to support employees. Because most teleshoppers spend part of their week in the office or the store and the other part at home, low levels of teleworking will not significantly reduce business needs for office space. However, when teleworking becomes full-time or nearly full-time, when employees share office space on the days they do drive to work, and when a large proportion of employees’ telework, the square-footage of office needed per employee drops dramatically. (Markham, 1998)

Besides the obvious financial costs to businesses of securing, operating, and maintaining offices, there are numerous environmental costs, usually borne by consumers and society. HVAC heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning equipment consumes large amounts of electricity and natural gas while exhausting waste heal to the atmosphere. This is especially true when offices are relatively low-density one and two story structures built on the urban and suburban fringe. Such paved areas are impervious to water; thus storm and snowmelt run-off from developed sites is far greater than from undeveloped sites. Rapid run-off taxes storm sewer systems, and may require expensive repairs and upgrades to the sewers that are often paid for the community at large. (Anon, 1999b)Make the most of time spend with remote workers to coach and develop the teleworker’s capabilities. Quickly enforce positive behaviour and bring unsatisfactory performance to the employee’s attention.

Moving managers from leaders to co-ordinators

What they have discovered about managing in the teleworking area is particularly useful for would-be adopters of this form of work-style. According to Bakke (1995), the middle manager may have to take on tasks as a contact person for the teleworker, and provide administrative support beyond what we are used to at today’s level. He or she must ensure that the co-ordination of work between teleworkers and office-based workers is taken care of, also keeping an eye on team relations and making sure that relationships to colleagues are maintained. Bakke’s view on all this is that the manager or supervisor’s role will begin to change from being a leader to becoming more of a co-ordinator or facilitator.

For instance, in team-based organisations, where the role of the manager is more to influence team behaviour. Would-be telework promoters may find that a visit to Scandinavia to see how it does it is not at all a bad idea. In the USA, Pacific Bell’s experience coincides with Bakke’s observations. They have found that just as critical to the success of a teleworking arrangement is the role of the managing supervisor.

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