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Are teleworkers slacking off?

If you ever had an inkling of doubt about the productivity claims of private-sector teleworkers, your reservations might just have been proven right: The findings of a new survey show that nearly one-fifth of those surveyed said they spend one hour or less per day actually working.

The nationwide CareerBuilder survey of nearly 5,300 nongovernment, fulltime employees set out to explore the productivity levels of private-sector teleworkers and their attitudes on working remotely. The results revealed that 17 percent of teleworkers committed an hour or less to work daily, and only 35 percent said they work eight or more hours. In all, 40 percent said they work between four and seven hours per day.

Cindy Auten, general manager at Telework Exchange, a public-private partnership focused on promoting telework in government, told Management Watch she was surprised by those numbers and would be “shocked” if she saw the same results among federal teleworkers.

“The federal government is so clearly defined on making sure you’re as, if not more, productive" when teleworking, she said. “There are a lot of performance management standards to uphold in the federal government, and in the private sector it’s really interesting that people can actually get away with not working. That begs the question, how are they measured?”

When given the opportunity to telework, federal employees have to adhere to certain standards that are stricter when compared with those in the private sector, and they’re also provided with training that has more structure, Auten said.

“I hear a lot of times that people say on their first day on the job, ‘I’ve been given a laptop, and I work from wherever.’ There are not as many parameters in place [in the private sector], and maybe there should be. Maybe this is a lesson the federal government can teach others -- to put a structure around the program and really focus and make sure employees are held accountable for their performance.”

The survey also showed that teleworkers are divided as to whether they’re more productive working at home or in the office. Thirty-seven percent say they get more done at work, while 29 percent report they’re more productive at home. The remaining 34 percent said they were equally productive at either location.

“Just because you’re eligible for telework doesn’t mean you’re a good candidate for it,” Auten about the respondents’ reported productivity levels.

Survey participants also listed the biggest distractions for working remotely: Household chores topped the list with 31 percent, followed by television (26 percent) and pets (23 percent). Errands, Internet and children were also mentioned as distractions, according to the survey.

“Regardless of where you are, you’re going to be distracted -- you just have to have that discipline to ensure you remain focused and productive,” Auten said.



Posted by Camille Tuutti on Sep 16, 2011 at 12:19 PM


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