As the labour market shifts and technology advances, the nature of ‘work’ is changing. Flexible work arrangements are the way of the future, providing benefits for organisations, employees, the environment and the economy. More and more workplaces in the public and private sectors are adopting the practice as a way to lower costs and improve employee satisfaction and productivity.
What is telework?
Telework can be defined as ‘working regularly from a place other than the office, in most cases from a home office. It utilises information and communications technology to stay connected to colleagues and work systems’. Other examples of teleworking include co-working spaces, telework hubs, or on the road via mobile devices for employees that travel a lot. These arrangements can be full-time or a combination of working from the office and remotely.
What kind of people can benefit from telework?
Telework can promote a positive work/life balance for anyone who responds well to it. Teleworkers commonly report high levels of productivity, greater job satisfaction and a greater sense of balance with their non-work activities.It also provides social inclusion opportunities for people who find it difficult to work in a traditional setting. Regional and remote workers, people with disabilities or illness and people with carer responsibilities are afforded more opportunities to participate in work, and work more efficiently, through flexible work arrangements.
Not all jobs are suitable for telework. If a job is highly collaborative or revolves around face-to-face contact (eg retail sales assistant, receptionist) then teleworking is not going to be beneficial, and may even be detrimental to the outcomes of that job.
When assessing whether a role is ‘teleworkable’ consider the following:
- What kind of work is performed in this role?
- Is the employee able to perform their day-to-day tasks via online and telephone communications?
- Will time working outside the workplace hinder the quality of the work performed?
- Will a limited amount of face-to-face contact with managers/other employees affect the quality of, or ability to complete, the work?
Teleworking provides all kinds of advantages to community sector organisations who adopt it, some of these are listed below.
Expanding recruitment options
On top of the impending labour shortage, the community and not-for-profit sector has one of the fastest growing workforces in Australia. This puts us at a double risk of having a skills shortage. By offering telework, organisations can widen their recruitment pool.
Attracting and retaining talent
Not-for-profit and community organisations can often be resource-poor. Offering flexible work practices can add value to recruitment for an organisation that may not be able offer salaries as high as their private sector counterparts. Flexible work can also serve to improve job satisfaction and reduce burnout in employees that have stressful jobs or high workloads.
Community organisations are committed to social responsibility and equal rights but above this there are gains to be made from having a diverse community focused workforce. Our clients are diverse and being able to relate from an organisational level allows us to deliver our services more effectively. Additionally, problem-solving in the community sector is often challenging. A more diverse workforce with an abundance of life-experience can encourage more successful solutions.
Implementing a telework program has the potential to save money on infrastructure costs and other overheads associated with a centralised workforce. Telework also offers the opportunity for higher productivity and lower rates of absenteeism.
Telework is a flexible system that can be applied on a case-by-case basis with varying budgets. A community organisation can assess their own needs and apply telework arrangements accordingly.
By adopting more inclusive work practices, such as telework, community organisations are supporting the people they serve.