Lack of Trust Stalls Uptake of Teleworking

New research from Mitel has found that despite the buzz around new technologies for mobile and home working, managers are reluctant to let staff off the leash due to a lack of trust. Nearly half (42%) of all managers surveyed admitted that not being able to see what employees are doing is a major factor in not implementing teleworking.

Of the 200 senior decision makers surveyed, one in three (29%) did not allow teleworking because they believe teleworkers put in shorter hours and one in six (14%) managers perceived that teleworkers work less hard. Ambitious teleworkers were also dealt a blow by the fact that one third (30%) of managers would be less inclined to promote teleworkers as quickly as their office-based colleagues.

Simon Gwatkin, VP of strategic marketing at Mitel, said: “The perception of teleworkers putting in shorter hours and not working as hard, just because they are out of sight is archaic. If an employee isn’t producing their work then a manager will know, whether they are in the office or not. We have found that non-office based workers face less interruptions, fit their work around family commitments and tend to be more easily contactable by customers and colleagues. The idea of virtual teams constantly in touch through instant messaging, on the fly conference calls and integrated access to the same information has become a reality and is accelerating through the uptake of presence and availability tools.”

Staff working for small businesses[1] were found to fare the worst with only a quarter (26%) of these companies offering teleworking compared to nearly 70 percent of organisations with over 100 employees. Of the 4.3 million businesses in the UK over 90 percent are classified as small businesses[2], indicating that the vast majority of UK employees are not being offered the chance to work beyond the confines of office.

Those organisations that do offer teleworking are being driven by employees, with one in three (27%) citing employee demand as their motivation for allowing a more flexible working approach. Other top ranking factors were a desire to improve customer service (28%) and the opportunity to get more value out of existing investment in technology (27%).

Fred Eulenkamp, managing director of Uniglobe Island Travel, said: “Our experience of teleworking is that employees are actually more productive when they have the flexibility to work from anywhere. It has enabled us to employ the best people, regardless of where they are based, and has made a positive impact to the business. By eliminating travel time staff can put in more hours without extending their working day and there are no additional call costs as we have a Mitel IP communications infrastructure. As a travel company offering global holidays we’re used to removing the barriers of location and have done the same with our own organisation.”

Interesting regional variances include the North West of England, which proved to be particularly cynical about the potential for employees to slack off, with two out of three managers (58%) thinking teleworkers put in shorter hours. Greater London was the most positive about the benefits with nearly 40 percent of the opinion that teleworkers are more productive. South West England was the region least likely to let employees loose with four out of five (80%) of business managers saying they would not allow teleworking regardless of the impact on customer service.