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The Future of Work: A Trans-Tasman Telework Survey

Contributed by: Tim Bentley, Director of the NZ Work Research Institute at AUT University

Teleworking (also referred to as telecommuting or flexible working) is known to have many benefits to both employee and employer alike. However, recently AUT University’s NZ Work Research Institute, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne’s Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society, delivered the findings of research examining manager and employee perspectives on telework productivity and wellbeing in Australia and New Zealand. The research was commissioned by industry partner, Cisco.

This study has found strong evidence of the positive benefits of telework for both individual workers and their organisations. The key study finding is that telework promotes improved productivity and satisfaction with work, with hybrid teleworkers performing better than those who do little telework. These conclusions are supported by findings from both the on-line survey which measured productivity, where teleworkers out-performed non-teleworkers, and from manager interviews, with managers expressing high levels of satisfaction with their teleworkers’ productivity.

Moreover, managers noted that teleworkers score more highly on engagement surveys and have less absenteeism than non-teleworkers. Additionally, some managers directly credited telework as a main reason for their organisation’s ability to attract and retain talented staff, especially where there are industry shortages or as part of the organisation’s commitment to workforce diversity. Early on in the study, we identified the emergence of a new trend: the hybrid teleworker. This refers to those employees who work one to three days a week from a location other than their traditional office. It also appears to strike the most appropriate balance in terms of flexible working, productivity and face-time with colleagues.

Despite the overall findings of the research proving what has been anecdotally understood for some time, that teleworking has numerous benefits for both employee and employer, the study also uncovered some key learnings for organisations embarking on a flexible working journey. Firstly, the research discovered that only 47% of employees have formal telework agreements in place and that less than 50% have had any form of training on teleworking (security, safety, efficiency).

The most consistent theme to come out of the survey is that people, and not technology, is what is limiting the effectiveness of teleworking. The message for organisations is that people need to be educated to shift their attitudes towards telework and ensure that the full benefits of the concept are realised.

For more information or to view the full report developed by AUT University and the University of Melbourne, please follow this link: Trans-Tasman Telework Survey Report

You can also view my presentation via Slideshare.

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