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Nearly half in Australia and NZ telework under informal policy: study

Adam Bender | Nov. 1, 2013
Teleworking is increasing even while many businesses in Australia and New Zealand lack written agreements or training for remote working, according to a report released today by Cisco.

Less than 50 per cent of employees said they had been given any training related to teleworking, including how to set up a home office and effective IT security, he said.

Cisco does teleworking training for its own employees, said Tim Fawcett, Cisco general manager of government affairs and policy. Support services are mostly online rather than face-to-face, he said.

On covering employee expenses related to teleworking, Bentley said most companies are paying for equipment like mobile phones and laptops, but the employees tended to provide their own broadband connection.

"Generally, it was something negotiated between the manager or the organisation and the employee, and it depended ... a lot on the role," said Marianne Gloet, research fellow at Melbourne University's department of management and marketing.

Health and safety issues such as maintaining an ergonomic work space are still a "grey area" in teleworking policy, Bentley said. However, he said the study found no more health and safety problems with those who teleworked compared to those who stayed in the office.

Many companies provide ask employees to complete a self-assessment survey of their work environments, said Rachelle Bosua, a lecturer in Melbourne University's school of engineering.

"The organisations don't necessarily go out and have their own assessment to see whether the things are really in place and as they should be, which is a bit of a concern and can be improved," she said.

Employers tend to only inspect the home offices of employees who telework 100 per cent of the time, added Gloet.

McLeod noted that a barrier to conducting more intensive inspections is that employees may feel uncomfortable about their companies dictating how they set up their home office.

Cisco sees health and safety as a "clear issue that needs to be dealt with" by government regulators, said Fawcett. "Twentieth century regulations don't necessarily automatically fit a twenty-first century economy."

The report found many benefits to teleworking, including increased productivity and wellbeing of employees. For the business, teleworking can save money on office space, provide access to a wider pool of talent and increase employee retention, it said. Outside the company, teleworking can reduce traffic congestion and is more environmentally friendly.

The report found that 71 per cent of employees said teleworking has a favourable influence on their job attitude. Only 4 per cent said that teleworking makes it tougher to communicate and collaborate with colleagues.

Internally at Cisco, teleworking has improved employee retention and increased worker productivity, Fawcett said.

"We see teleworkers as actually being amongst our top workers right across our business."

National Telework Week takes place in Australia from November 18 to 22.



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