Teleworkers: Slackers or ethical?

A confluence of events makes telework more attractive than ever -- just in time for a bombshell study to throw a wrench into the effort.

A confluence of events — congested roads, exorbitant real estate prices and steep gas costs — have all buoyed the telework movement and spurred interest in flexible work arrangements in the government and private sector.

Therefore, the timing of a CareerBuilder report in which 17 percent of respondents admit to working an hour or less per day when teleworking is all the more unfortunate. Although it is true that more than one-third of those polled say they put in a full day, the survey lends some credence to managers' worries that teleworking employees take advantage of their reduced visibility to goof off.

However, the survey was confined to private-sector employees. Government employees might have a different attitude.

Other research supports the notion that many employees value the flexibility of telework: GigaOM reported that 12 percent of working men and 6 percent of women would give up more than 10 percent of their salary to telework more often.

And in contrast to the CareerBuilder survey, an article in Bnet suggests that telework could make employees more ethical. A recent survey noted that the number of ethics violations was lower among teleworkers than among in-office employees: 11 percent vs. 36 percent, Bnet’s Dave Johnson wrote.

In an effort to explain the numbers, Johnson suggested that the telework environment might lend itself to fewer opportunities for misconduct. Employees might also be reluctant to do anything that could jeopardize their remote-work privileges, the article states.

However, employers might have a bigger problem on their hands. In recounting a recent webcast by the Telework Exchange, Nextgov's Brittany Ballenstedt noted that many agencies still lack the plans, tools and support necessary to manage teleworkers.

“When grading their agencies on mobile readiness, only 10 percent gave their agency an A, while 31.8 percent graded their agency a B and 36.4 percent gave their agency a C,” she wrote on the "Wired Workplace" blog. “Sixteen percent gave their agency a D, and 6.4 percent graded their agency an F on mobile readiness, according to the results.”

The issue of being unprepared is not exclusive to government agencies, Business Insurance magazine reported. Risk management practices have not kept pace with changes in the workplace, and teleworking employees could face new hazards. As an example, Business Insurance cited the case of a woman who died of a blood clot after sitting at her work computer at home for long periods of time. Her family was recently granted workers’ compensation survivor benefits.

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