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 user 2005-02-05 at 10:43:00 am Views: 79
  • #10065

    Staff may be happier at home
    New kit and better connectivity driving workers home
    Once, only BT really tried to turn telework to its advantage. Now Sun and Brother have adopted similar tactics. It’s an interesting development – especially as DTI minister Patricia Hewitt’s drive to encourage “work-life balance” has, in the eyes of supporters, been more talk than action.

    Sun beats a strong Green drum, and has enlisted no less than Tony Blair’s environmental guru Jonathan Porritt in its cause.

    Sun’s head of government affairs, Richard Barrington, says the firm’s teleworkers have saved it a quarter of its office space in four years, and an annual £2.7m in energy costs. These staff now also save two hours of commuting time a week, of which they give back to the firm an hour in work.

    Sun favours public transport, as long as its staff can sit down and tap away in it. The firm believes its shift to telework has made its staff happier, and thus more productive.

    Brother, maker of inkjet and laser printers that are also scanners that are fax machines that are copiers, has bet much of its European future on the idea that home working is poised to take off. For tomorrow’s Smart Office Home Office, it argues, IT devices must be miniaturised and should sport a consumer look. By shifting tricky ink tanks from printer head toward the base of its printers, Brother says it has managed to meet those requirements, and cut noise, energy use and downtime.

    At research firm IDC, Duncan Browne is equally optimistic. Government staff, he argues, are poised for a belated move to remote working. More broadly, PCs should be in 50 percent of British homes in just two years, and broadband will spread faster. And while the number of multifunction peripherals in the home runs at slightly less than half the broadband connections there, such products are multiplying.

    Browne adds that staff who work one day a week or more from home, and those taking work home, need peripherals equivalent to those at work. And this need for what he calls “corporate office equivalence” applies to homeworkers even if they don’t have space for a study at home.

    Officially, there were 2.2 million one-day-a-week-or-more teleworkers – including the self-employed – back in 2001. But in 2005, Browne says, popular demand for flexible working arrangements far exceeds employers’ provisions.

    As Brother UK sales chief Phil Jones points out, for every one percent of UK employers agreeing to the demand for flexible work, tens or hundreds of thousands of employees will become teleworkers.

    The research shows that people mainly want to work from home because there they will be interrupted less and can think more. As a result, the home is changing.

    EU regulation of telework is on its way. There is Wi-Fi networking, and the prospect of The Remote Control That Does Everything. But remember: when the enterprise reaches the home, 60 percent of staff fix their own IT glitches, and only 29 percent say they have to rely on the IT department.

    Homeworking has a logic all its own. To invert Sun’s causality: only if firms offer real productivity in the home will staff be happy there