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Intent of Telework

Management Concerns

Building a Telework Program


What is the intent, the object, or aim, of management for instituting telework? What is the intent of the individual individual employee who requests telework? While these seem simple questions, they have profound implications for the design of a telework program and for its ultimate success or failure.

One common intent is to allow an employee a quiet day at home to concentrate on difficult work. Some employees in the Telework Pilot Project commented on how great it was to be able to do this and how productive they were when they could concentrate without the normal office interruptions and distractions.

In this scenario, telework is not normal work; it is an exception to normal work. Coworkers will get the message that the teleworker is working from home in order to work uninterrupted, and will be reluctant to contact them. Even the manager may feel they are "interrupting" if they call the employee at home.

This is fine if it is the intent of the manager and employee. How successful it is can be measured by whether or not it helps the employee accomplish their work; usually it does and usually the employee is more productive.

The intent of a telework program is very different. Management's goal may be to reduce office space, reduce energy costs and reduce the organization's carbon footprint. In this scenario, many more employees will need to telework much more often. In other words, the normal work of the organization will be done from home just as it is in the office. The message of not interrupting an employee on their telework day is entirely wrong in this scenario.

To realize management's intent for the program, teleworkers will need to be as connected to the office as possible. Coworkers will need to know that they are not interrupting the teleworker; that they can contact them (call or email) just as frequently as if they were in the office. In fact, it is important for those that telework frequently to make frequent contact with coworkers back at the office in order to avoid becoming isolated from the team. Without this close connection, mistrust can develop and telework can fail. Or course, increased telework (either more employees teleworking or employees teleworking more often) requires more infrastructure and tools.

It is important for those considering or developing a telework program to understand that the intent of an individual employee, a department, or management may not be the same, may not always be compatible, and may require different measurements to evaluate success. Policies, infrastructure, tools, and even subtle messages between managers and employees (or between coworkers) will need to change when telework transitions from the "exception" to "normal way of doing business".

In the Toolkit

Determine Program Goals


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This page was last updated on June 7, 2009