Teleworking and Its Impact on Managers Abstract Telework is the alternative work management in the present day’s public and private sectors. People argue that teleworking improves employee efficiency and reduces business related expenses such as travel expenses for employees. A study reveals that managers tend to lose control over their teleworking employees. A literature review conducted through the analysis of emails, interviews and observation reveals that telework reduces the official communication between the managers and their sub-ordinates.
However, on the other hand telework improves the communication between the higher level of officials and employees. It seems to increase the employee’s autonomy over their managers. The higher level managers are left absolutely clueless on the evaluation procedures. To sum it up, the importance of the manager in the employee’s profession is reduced. Teleworking and Its Impact on Managers The concept of telework was introduced in the 1970’s during the energy crisis that hit the world. According to Alain Pinsonneault, “following the idea that it was possible to spare energy by limiting travels.
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Shifting the work was fostered rather than shifting people” (Alix, 2001). This quote has got great significance in explaining the needs and steps required to bring down the energy consumption around the globe. There were not any serious developments and the importance was not understood until the later 90’s. With the advent of technology since then, the concept of telework also started gaining on various aspects of the industries. This was fostered by the developments made in the communication field.
The method of communication exchanged envisaged a totally new experience with the innovations made and drastically decreased the cost of exchanging the data. The internet technology further encouraged the practices of communicating in a different way. With the availability of high speed internet options, the world started envisaging a whole new experience of telework practices. Roots of Telework concepts Advocates of this type of work argue that telework had its grass roots in the European market. Until late 90s very few potential teleworkers can be identified and they can easily hand picked around the globe.
The number of teleworkers (in Europe) has increased to around nine million in 1999 as compared to only a few of them in early 1990s. This figure has further increased to ten million by 2000. However researchers from European Telework Online Resources Database conclude the fact that telework is looked upon a juridical or a country-planning perspective and a manager’s role is almost negligible here. This raises several questions regarding the manager’s position and role in such kinds of works. Naturally, this leads to a communication gap between the teleworking employees and the managers.
The teleworking method calls for an all new concept of evaluating the working standards and efficiencies of the employees rather than the traditional methods. The manager is forced to adopt a new role in the method of evaluation of his or her subordinates. The overall efficiency of the works is empowered but certainly the managers are required to change their management role in handling the sub-ordinates. The case of salespeople is taken as the example here. However, a March 2008 study by the independent National Science Foundation and Telework Exchange reveals that telework is a “win-win-win for managers, employees and the environment”1.
Sales people are mostly associated with the telework job and it increases their autonomy in working. This team of people has to directly report to their managers regarding the business data and other business information. This certainly will have an impact in the manager-employee role. The sales management activities rarely reports to the higher officials directly but it is the role of the managers to take responsibility of the outcome of their sub ordinates. Insight into the concept of Teleworking Definition of the independent variable: “telework”
According to Mehdi Khosrowpour, Telework is “remote working supported by information and communications technologies” (Gray et al. , 1993). The word ‘remote’ plays a constructive role in the definition. It means away from a traditional work place (office) and not in direct touch with the higher level officials. Unless the teleworkers report the problem or their outcome, the higher level officials such as managers have to wait for the results. It basically means traditional workers are conscious of being evaluated constantly by their respective managers which tend to hinder their performance.
However home based workers are not under such supervision which increases their efficiency. This clearly defines the responsibility of the mangers in the organization. Their role is effectively replaced with certain additional responsibilities. Explaining about the independent variable: Role of a manager In the traditional method, the managers tend to have a direct relationship with the employees and have a direct control. The inter-personal relationship takes place in the hierarchy and the managers can put their restrictions very well to get the desired output from the employees.
The word hierarchy can be best described by the definition from various authors. This directly indicates taking up the responsibility for the outputs of the work done by the subordinates. This will have clear psychological effects on the managers and they are forced to rush up with things if they do not go well. A manager has to perform certain functions and has different kinds of responsibilities such as Coordination, Division of labor, Evaluation. Coordination can be best described as a collective response is required and has to coordinate between the subordinates and the management level (Maggi, 1996).
Coordination has got sub fields such as Communication which defines the modes, frequency to communicate in all forms hierarchy and the manager can intervene in the activities of the subordinate. Team work is the number of meetings and their frequency is set by the manager. The other sub dimension is autonomy which is a rare commodity offered to the employee. Division of Labor defines autonomy in the way the manager can let off the individuals to work on their own. Responsibility is the set of activities for which the individual is held responsible or accountable.
Evaluation has Evaluation criteria as its sub-dimension. It says that managers roll out the various evaluation criteria for the sub ordinates. Responsibility is to take care of persons involved, evaluation scenarios, evaluation consequences, rewards, sanctions etc Influence of Telework on the Managers The impacts of the telework can be completely known when the positive and negative results of this job are studied. So the basic and mandatory requirement is to study the pros and cons of this type of work to effectively analyze the impact of managers.
More and more managers tend to be become motivators rather than controllers, but in a classical work context, this transformation is not compulsory. In a telework’s context, it is. (D’Amours, 2001). This kind of industry demands the managers to take an active role in coaching and thus leading to the shift of middle level managers towards monitoring and less supervision of the employees. Case Studies and their Results An empirical research There are certain basic levels of requirements before conducting this kind of analysis.
The basic requirement is that the teleworkers those who spend at least 50% of their working time away from the office or the main premises. They could work anywhere from their home, remote areas and anywhere else in the globe. Let’s concentrate on the professionals who do work from their home. This is considered to be the most and obvious form of virtual form of teleworking (Gauthier and Dorin, 1997). The second requirement is the choice of profession. Here, we consider focusing on the sales people involved in the field of electronic components, and other products etc.
In such fields, the professional has to leverage his skills as it requires a very complicated structure of communication that has to be established between the consumer and the worker. More over, it requires highly efficient skills to market the product. These studies are believed to expose the impact of teleworking on the manager’s role. Case Study The following case study is about an American company that manufactures and sells electronic components which has instantiated the teleworking system since 1991. Here, the salespeople of the company are the home-based teleworkers and according to the company information, almost all these mployees spend 75% of their working time outside the company’s premises. However, it is important to reveal the fact that even though managers have all the required technology and equipments, they cannot be called as teleworkers. A semi-structured interview lasting for one hour on average was conducted with 15 persons. This team included 11 members of the distribution team that included managers and employees of the sales team. An access to information such as secondary sources also plays a vital role in analyzing the impact of teleworkers on managers.
Some of them include the teleworker’s work contract and other details and all emails received by him for the official purposes. It was approximately 400 emails from a single teleworkers and it had 300 emails from the manager in a period of 9 months. A close eye on the teleworkers’s movement and business conversation were recorded. Results Obtained Influence on coordination The first obvious result was the decreased level of communication between the managers and the employees. The first day of observation recorded that a teleworker had sent only 2 direct mails to the manager and made no phone calls to him.
This is out of the total of 16 emails sent and 17 phone calls made by the teleworker. Rather the manager ringed him once and has sent 2 emails on the same morning. It is studied that telework increases the bias in interpretations. Usually, a manager is supposedly considered to have a wrong perception on the salesmen. The factors such as distance and time distortion is said to be the possible factors influencing these thoughts and behaviors. An email or a simple phone call is not sufficient to explain every inch of detail and this might lead to communication gap.
People might give some information and the context might be misunderstood due to the tone of the message. Visualization of the messages conveyed plays a vital role. Hence, it is believed that it is easy to communicate things in a better way when managers can meet up with the team everyday. Managers are said to be affected in this kind of affirmative habits practices. Unnecessary suspicions and doubts might entangle the thoughts of the managers if the works are not accomplished well within the time frame. This will subsequently affect the relationship in the top-down hierarchy.
A problem in the working strategy will never be disclosed in its earlier stages. When the managers and the team meet face to face, any kind of problem can be solved immediately. But there are certain problems working with the teleworkers. Discovering the problem is always deferred without knowing the true facts. However, the teleworkers might also interpret the absence of communication from their managers in a wrong way. Hence the managers are requested to improve the efforts taken to communicate and be in constant touch with the subordinates.
A meeting with one of the manager revealed the fact that he has to give more importance and apply extra stress on the fact of communication because the home based teleworkers seldom show interest to contact the managers and inform the proceedings. A well organized and formal communication session has to be established by the managers through various meetings. It is a tough task to bring the teleworkers for the meetings by convincing them. Organizing formal meetings and making the presence of subordinates as a mandatory requirement will agitate the workers and disturb their autonomy.
Another manager also reported a strange fact saying that one his guys did not have any customer visit for a longer time and the manager has requested for a meeting with him. But it went to the deaf ears of the teleworker and once he got a response like this. I can’t see you at that moment; I must meet my housekeeper (Anonymous, 2001). This line clearly explains the attitude of a teleworker towards his manager. The worker feels that it is important to meet his housekeeper rather than meeting the manager. The serious concerns of the managers are described here.
Managers have to effectively adopt new ways of communication and motivation towards the subordinates. A paradigm shift is made from the concept of ‘management by osmosis’ to a ‘management by aims’. Communication is rather one way but it has to be bi-directional for a better atmosphere. Managers are worried with the fact that they have to speak to the machines rather than the workers when there is an immediate requirement. It is also revealed that a direct form of communication takes place with the top level officials who seriously threaten the role of a manager in an enterprise.
Most companies advocate for the ‘open door policy’ and encourage contacting the higher level officials neglecting the managers. Influence on Division of Labor The loneliness of the labors improves the level of autonomy that they possess. When there is an immediate requirement for any kind of help, they are unable to reach their colleague for immediate help. Influence of Evaluation Managers have to adopt a new form of evaluation rather than the traditional ones. The core responsibility of the manager lies in framing new design and ideas to evaluate the performance of the teleworkers.
They cannot be judged on the basis of number of working hours and behavior. However, a new policy that evaluates the performance and the achievement of the objectives has to be created. The managers have no role to interact with the teleworkers but have the responsibility to analyze the customer level satisfaction and report them. Teleworkers work most of the time with the customers and hence it is important to analyze those results. A performance evaluation chart is prepared according to the 2 factors as Customer satisfaction and Achievement of the objectives.
One good factor that has a positive impact on the managers regarding teleworkers is that, every teleworker is well aware of his responsibilities and he is solely responsible for all the results achieved. So, they strive hard to obtain a high degree of satisfied results with the customers and the role of the managers is to simply motivate the subordinates and mentor them. Managers have got a new role to play in the management as a “Mentor”. By doing this effectively, a manager can improve his assets in the property along with his subordinates.
A better remuneration and should be imposed by the managers based on the results. Influence on Adjustments The study revels that the managers have to show some sort of transparency involved in the work. This job demands a high level of adjustment with the various levels of workers. The superior management is also required to get adjusted with the employees. However, the managers have more accountability and responsibility for all the results derived from their subordinate’s works. If they fail, the managers are blamed for their inability to communicate well and direct the actions properly. However, the eleworker might not have co-operated with the manager. Now, we look into agendas. It is not to track them, but rather to coach them and teach them to use this tool as something useful for them. We involve the assistant but it is not always sufficient. Sometimes, we open one agenda and we tell the sales engineer “You’ve got an appointment here, but did you allow you some time to make a debriefing, to write a report, to follow actions? What time do you plan for your journeys? ” ( Anonymous, 2003). A transparent plan and agenda will help the managers to take stock of the situation and keep it under control.
Some of the problems faced by the managers are that the manger might send a tentative schedule or any agenda via email to the worker, but the worker would not fill up the details and send any confirmation, rather he might have it to verify the activities and do not fill up with the activities done by him. It is just used as a checklist rather than a performance evaluation paper. Managers are forced to give the value-added services and appreciation to the subordinates. Find difficulty in convincing the teleworkers to come back to the premises for any kind of meeting.
The tools given to the subordinates are used at their discretionary powers and take it to improve their autonomy. Conclusion The concept of teleworking has got its own pros and cons. There are so many advantages seen from the company’s perspective. The 2006 U. S. General Services denotes that there are lots of benefits in the field of recruitment and retention of employees, improved COOP and reduced impact on the environment. However, the manager’s perspective is very different. This work forces every manager to redefine the goals and responsibilities towards the subordinates. If managers are bound to control the teleworker, they will fail.
A more of a mentorship job has to be taken by the manager. The case study discussed above might not prove and substantiate all the aspects of the impact of teleworking on a manager. It is certainly insufficient to draw any conclusions but comparative results are obtained. The above conclusions will surely help to maintain the virtual organization in the correct format when implemented. References Alix, P. (2001) Comprendre et pratiquer le teletravail, Lamy/Les Echos, Coll. Agir en co naissance de cause Blau, P. M. (1972) ‘Interdependence and hierarchy in organizations’, Social Science Research,
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