Telework at a tipping point?

Although many look at telework as a good thing, there is a dark side to remote working that nobody is talking about and it's preventing the expansion of the practice, writes Jessica Stillman on

Stephen Ruth, a George Mason professor of public policy, said telework is at its tipping point because the demographics of the current telework set include people who are educated, productive and satisfied with their jobs and that new entrants may not be coming from that same demographic, according to the article.

Ruth also pointed out that those left behind in the office will be the "frustrated remainder" and managers will see increasing problems as workers go virtual, putting the productivity gains of telework in question.

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Reader comments

Thu, Sep 1, 2011 Basil White 20420

The overwhelming reason my leadership has given for resisting telework is that they have to visually supervise me to verify that I'm working. I assert that with the capabilities of the Internet, if someone has to watch me to verify that I'm working, they in fact do not know that I'm working: they've only verified that I can visually portray work performance. This work environment also encourages hiring supervisors who impose a 19th-century shop-boss method of supervision on 21st century knowledge workers. I could outsource much of my work online to a third party and browse the Internet all day on my personal laptop and no one would be the wiser. I do all my own work, not because I couldn't outsource my work to Bangalore, but because I love my country and I have an intrinsic ethic of performance that drove me to seek Federal employment in the first place. Without visual supervision of workers, supervisors have to create tangible, traceable criteria for delivering work. The upshot of these traceable criteria is that employees deliver more tangible work, and everyone wins. Why isn't telework a requirement for employees under COOP? In September 2001 some bad people flew planes into our buildings, demonstrating our need to maintain an ongoing ability to work from home. I have found no better way to assure ongoing capability of remote work in crisis than to require delivery of tangible work once or twice a week from home.

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 Kansas City

Agree with article only in that most agencies do not operate a formal training program or update their operating procedures for employees. Over the decade most agencies have moved to OJT and training by trial and error and for the most part ignored updating operating procedures. If telework is to work, agencies will need to rethink its training process for new employees and update written operating procedures.

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 Bill Washington DC

I think the real tipping points are seeing how productivity and job satisfaction play out as more and more workers are transitioned to telework. I know many old guard employees are happier now to telework because they do not like the office setting and have long commutes but will these be the same feeling for newer/younger workers who live closer to the office and who rely heavily on their young coworkers as a key social fabiric in their lives? Also, we'll have to see if there are differences in training results and retention as more work goes virtual. Of course,it's too early in this transition to tell if we are at a tipping point. Stay tuned!

Sun, Aug 14, 2011

Teleworking success will be impacted by the success of the manager to manage their employees. If the manager is not taking the time to ensure their employees are doing their job in the office as well as outside of the office. The results will be the same, poor employee performance and productivity. As with any productivity issues the manager needs to be aware of a problem and take actions to correct it. The actual process used to manage a employee may change with teleworking, but the method behind managing employees should still apply.. If your employees perform well, recognize and support. If your emplyees perform poorly, address and rectify.

Fri, Aug 12, 2011 Columbus

I so agree with the remarks about productivity of those who work and those who don't. I too have seen the ones at work that are always away from their desk or reading a magazine, and more often than not if they do it at work they will do it at home. It is very hard to get rid of federal employees and the process needs to made easier. Federal employees have a bad rep now and now the telework it will get worse unless something is done to get rid of the dead beats. And just because your a vet makes no difference. My husband is a vet and I still wouldn't give him preferential treatment as while he was going thru the military so was I, and I don't get any special treatment. If they got rid of the dead beats and rewarded the ones who actually work they wouldn't need so many workers.

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