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The great teleworking fail

19 February 2020

Teleworking has been possible for decades now.

In reality, I have teleworked off and on for more than 25 years and I like to think that I have been extremely productive when doing so.

Other reports also indicate that teleworkers are extremely effective and productive.

So what's the problem?

Why aren't more people teleworking, with the obvious benefits that are created for both workers and employees alike?

Why aren't employees enjoying a more flexible work environment as well as saving on commuting costs; and why aren't employers benefitting from the significantly reduced overheads involved in allowing people to work from their own homes?

Is it just inertia? A fear of the unknown? An unwillingness to delegate the responsibility of self-management to staff?

Well I'm not sure of the exact reason but one thing's for sure... the technology certainly exists to allow virtually seemless teleworking at quite a number of levels so logic would dictate that anyone who isn't embracing the concept is wasting money and time.

Sure, there are some occupations where teleworking is impractical. Your local builder or plumber can hardly fix your deck or your pipes if he's not actually at your house -- but a myriad of other tasks can be easily achieved without the need for people to be physically present.

One of the first roles that became a candidate for teleworkign was obviously that of computer programmer.

To cut code, all you need is a computer, a desk, a chair and an adequate supply of pizza and coke. Once suitably kitted out, your average coder can be left to their own devices (in a cave if needs be) and their performance can easily be measured and checked by way of how they're meeting their timeline goals.

It could even be argued that a programmer works most efficiently when removed from the distractions, interruptions and annoyances of a busy open-plan office environment.

Yet, surprisingly enough, we still find rooms filled with programmers, each in their tiny cubicle, tapping away from 8am to 5pm and having to travel sometimes long distances to/from that place of employment each day.

Why?

Even jobs that require more human to human interaction can now be undertaken remotely, thanks to video calling/conferencing and the power of ultra-fast broadband connections over fibre or 4G wireless.

Need to have a staff meeting? Simply get everyone on a video conference call where the issues of the day can be discussed, documents/files exchanged/distributed and the whole thing logged as a recorded video file. So much quicker, simpler and easier than trying to get everyone around a big table and shuffling huge piles of paper.

Again I ask... so why isn't teleworking the norm rather than the exception for those jobs where it could easily be employed?

Don't employers want to reduce the overheads associated with employing people?

Teleworkers don't need a desk, a chair, floorspace, toilets, a tea-room, a water-cooler, a potted plant or any of the other expenses that can rapidly create a hefty entry on the debit side of your financial ledger.

Teleworkers can also save a fortune on commuting costs, parking fees and time lost to sitting in traffic twice a day.

Everyone's a winner... right?

And, as the studies show, teleworkers are usually more productive than those who are forced to spend eight hours a day in an office or "work-pit" environment.

The splinters in my fingers prove that I really am scratching my head over this apparent insanity whereby we force people to relocate five or six times a week, just so that both workers and employers can incur extra costs and inefficiencies.

Perhaps readers can enlighten me. Why, in this age of gigabit internet, isn't teleworking more of a thing?

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