Teleworking falls victim to archaic attitudes and change phobia

Archaic attitudes and a widespread resistance by management to change in the workplace is stalling the teleworking trend.

For a report released this week by the Australian Telework Advisory Committee (ATAC), which is a joint effort conducted by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) and the Department of Employee and Workplace Relations (DEWR), the government interviewed 26 respondents from both the private and public sectors to identify impediments to more flexible work practices.

The survey found 73 percent of businesses interviewed and 62 percent of workers have a high level of satisfaction with teleworking arrangements. But respondents recommended managers undergo improved training and support and promote teleworking benefits to mainstream industry.

"At the commencement of the review the committee expected impediments to the increased uptake of this flexible work practice would be ICT-related," the authors report.

"Rather, we found that the impediments are attitudinal, educational and management related and managers would benefit from enhanced training on the commercial, social and environmental benefits that can flow from work practices - such as teleworking - that are supportive of society's changing values and practises."

The report also indicated there is a clear case for government intervention to accelerate the teleworking trend.

Recommendations include improved management training and support, promotion of teleworking benefits to mainstream industry and the building of technological capacity for ICT-enabled workers.

The report also found 20 percent of employers and 24 percent of employees saw productivity gains as an important factor for driving teleworking, which some employers see as a way to improve work/life balance and increase the flexibility for family time.

Australian Computer Society (ACS) president Philip Argy said teleworking is an important step forward in addressing the work/life balance for Australian ICT workers.

Argy said the ACS Work/Life policy supports teleworking, where appropriate up to two days a week, as well as a flexible working day built around "core hours" of 10am to 3pm.

He urged the government to act on the recommendations to address skills shortages and an ageing workforce.

"An increase in the use of teleworking will allow people currently inhibited from the workforce due to family responsibilities, age or disabilities, to offer their skills to the Australian economy," Argy said.

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