Telecommuting, part timers shape changing work patterns

More than 50 per cent of IT professionals will choose to work as part timers or contractors by 2004.

Driving the trend, according to a Meta Group white paper, are a shortage of IT skills worldwide particularly in the fields of project management, change management and systems administration.

A shorter business cycle -- across all industries -- is further exacerbating the trend.

Meta Group vice president of executive directions, Jonathon Poe, said the economic slowdown has made IT even more strategic to organisations, but the skills shortage is having a huge impact in Australia.

Consequently, new styles of working - such as telecommuting and working ‘virtually' in order to save travel time and to achieve a work and life balance will be the trend. "I see this as a smart thing," he said.

According to Poe, baby boomers and generation X professionals are working hard but also playing hard, placing more value than previous generations on "transitioning" properly from work life to personal life.

The latter half of generation X-ers (22 to 27 year olds) will be more entrepreneurial and temporal in the future, he said.

This new trend, however, places pressure on CIOs to develop on-demand sourcing relationships and enterprise-wide sourcing strategies.

"Growing numbers of high-performance professionals use part-time schedules to creatively balance work and home commitments. [But] as IT workforces continue to age, CIOs should implement strategies to leverage the emerging trend of part-time employees."

With one in 10 IT workers in the US employed part-time, Australian business would be "foolish" not to adapt to this emerging workforce trend, "or lose productive employees to their competition", Poe said.

"Managers need to be more proactive and take advantage of the smarts of their people. They need to put an equitable framework around people management," he said.

CIOs need to focus "point-blank" on the human element of managing part-time personnel. "A lot of companies purport that people are their most valuable asset, but how they treat their people is inconsistent to what they say," he said.

Companies should also identify opportunities for staff to work with the businesses' partner organisations (like outsourced suppliers) where possible, helping to make them more productive through access to more resources.

Poe says that embracing more part-time or contract staff lends numerous benefits to a business' bottom line.

"Part-timers on a per hour basis are more productive. In order to be effective in their tasks, they set out their tasks clearly, and often have fewer resources and less time, so must focus."

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