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Common Myths About Telework

 

The statements below are Myths commonly heard in any organization where telework is being introduced.  These myths are perpetuated by lack of experience or information about telework and can become barriers to the adoption of telework. Focus groups conducted by Arizona State University (ASU) during this evaluation, demonstrated that the exchange of information based upon actual experience increased positive attitudes about telework among front-line supervisors and mid-level managers.  The ASU research team stated the following in their evaluation of the focus groups:

"It seemed to be a relatively easy process to change the perceptions of managers and supervisors regarding the barriers to telework where those perceptions were based on unfamiliarity or misinformation.  In each focus group, participants described the focus group as a learning situation about telework.  The least familiar members of each group were the most likely to express this opinion.  The focus groups in general appeared to move participants into a position of being more supportive of telework."

Click on a myth below to find out What Experience Has To Say.   The statements indented below each myth were taken directly from the Arizona State University evaluation of the State of Arizona Telework Program, and reference what experienced State employees say about these common myths.

  1. I won't know they're working at home.

  2. Teleworkers must have a computer to work from home.

  3. I won't get promoted if I telework.

  4. Teleworkers must work at home five days a week.

  5. Teleworkers are not available when you need them.

  6. Telework is not for everyone, so it's not fair.

  7. Everyone will want to telework.

  8. Equipment will be expensive.

  9. Teleworkers cause more work for supervisors.

  10. Teleworkers cause more work for coworkers.

  11. Our type of jobs aren't compatible to telework.

  12. The public would not support State employees working from home.

  13. Our employees deal with confidential information so they can't telework.

 


 

I won't know they're working at home.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Supervisors discover they are better able to monitor the work by shifting the focus from how much work the employee looks like he or she is accomplishing to how much he or she actually is accomplishing.  By focusing on the work product instead of the work activity, many supervisors find they are better able to communicate clear expectations to their employees.  When supervisors and teleworkers agree on job expectations, it often leads to increases in employee productivity and job satisfaction.  Many supervisors already use this method of management by results. 

 

Mid-level managers and front-line supervisors reported that they felt supervising a telework employee involved a change in management style from management by observation of the job being done to management of the results. The participants routinely reported as positive any changes they made to their management style in order to more effectively supervise a telework employee.

 

As reported by senior managers, logs and time sheets and daily or frequent contact with teleworkers were the most typically used monitoring strategies.

 

Seventy-seven percent of State non-teleworker and 86% of State teleworkers disagreed with the statement that, "It is difficult to track the work products of teleworkers."

 

State telework pilots consistently show that, after telework for six months, both teleworkers and their supervisors believe that telework has increased the teleworker's productivity.  Productivity increases because employees have fewer distractions and interruptions, work at their personal peak times, and are less stressed due to the absence of the commute. 

 

The most commonly mentioned benefits of telework by senior managers were increased work efficiency and productivity, and increased employee morale.

 

Ninety-two percent of the teleworkers and seventy-two percent of the non-teleworker disagreed with the statement that they would get less work done if they worked from home part of the time.

 

 


 

Teleworkers must have a computer to work from home.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Telework is not synonymous with tele-computing.  You may only require a telephone to work from home on a part-time basis.  Many employees collect tasks to do at home during the week that do not require special equipment.  Many employees find the opportunity to telework is so worthwhile they choose to use their personal equipment when equipment is not available from their offices.  Many agencies provide laptops for employees to sign out and take home.  A computer is not required to telework. 

 

Familiarity with telework was related to one's perception as to the suitability of job tasks for working from home.  Familiarity also appeared to have some relationship to the perception that computers were necessary in order to telework; i.e., those who were more familiar with telework were more likely to disagree with the statement that computers are necessary to telework.

 

Job requirements such as computers, short notice meetings, and access to reference material at the job location may be important factors influencing the decision to telework but were not perceived as significant barriers to telework by State employees. 

 

A strong majority of State employees (83%) indicated that their job tasks were suitable for telework.  Sixty-seven percent of State employees have or would be willing to purchase the equipment necessary to allow them to telework.

 

 


 

I won't get promoted if I telework.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Actually, current research suggests teleworkers are more likely to be promoted than their non-teleworking coworkers according to a study mentioned in the  Advanced Management Journal, Summer '92.  The reason for this may be that teleworkers tend to be selected by management because they work well independently and can be trusted to perform well remote from the office environment.

 

Eighty-nine percent of State teleworkers disagreed that they felt out of the loop when teleworking. 

The employee survey found no significant difference in promotion rates between teleworkers and non-teleworkers.

 

 


 

Teleworkers must work at home five days a week.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Telework allows selected employees to work at home, or a state office location closer to home, one or more days a week.  Jobs are really just a collection of tasks.  Some tasks must be done at the office.  Tasks which may be done away from the office are called teleworkable tasks.  The amount of telework an employee may do, depends on how many teleworkable tasks they have each week and whether the equipment required to accomplish those tasks is available.  Keep in mind, it is not necessary to have a computer to telework. Many tasks, such as reading, thinking, planning or making phone calls, do not require computers and may be saved for a telework day.

 

Most current teleworkers work from home on an ad hoc, rather than a regularly scheduled basis and an even greater percentage of former teleworkers worked from home on an ad hoc basis. 

 

 


 

Teleworkers are not available when you need them.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Teleworkers work with their supervisors during training to create an individual agreement where responsibilities are restructured to maintain work group integrity and plan how they will maintain communication with the office and what will be done to meet contingencies.  If the teleworker is needed, he or she may be asked to come in to the office or join an emergency staff meeting by conference call.

 

Ninety-two percent of teleworkers and 80% of non-teleworkers disagreed with the statement, "Teleworkers are never around when you need them."  State managers disagreed in the same proportion as employees.

 

 


 

Telework is not for everyone, so it's not fair.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Offering the opportunity to work at home is a management option; telework is not a universal employee benefit.  Supervisors may select employees who have right tasks, abilities and circumstances at home necessary to telework.  But an employee's participation in the State's telework program is entirely voluntary.  Not having the opportunity to telework is not a grieveable offense.  Telework is not for everyone and not everyone wants it.  The focus on fairness can be deceiving.  We all have different needs.  Rather, look at fairness as offering several flexible work options like flextime or compressed work weeks so most everyone will have the opportunity to get the flexibility they need when they need it.

 

 


 

Everyone will want to telework.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Most people prefer the normal work week.  Everyone does not want or need the same flexibility in the work place.  Flexibility in the workplace is not usually offered as a universal employee benefit, but at the option of management.   A State employee with information handling tasks at least part of the time may be a candidate for telework.  Successful teleworkers are self-motivated and results-oriented employees who work well independently.  They need minimal supervision, are currently successful in setting priorities, meet deadlines and take the initiative to communicate with team members.  Beyond this, they need the right atmosphere and equipment to work from home.

 

A strong majority of non-teleworking respondents answered that they perform at least one teleworkable job task on a regular basis.  Of non-teleworking participants 83 percent indicated that their jobs task were suitable for telework, but 33% were not willing or didn't have resources at home to enable them to telework.

 

 


 

Equipment will be expensive.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Many employees find the opportunity to telework is so worthwhile they choose to use their personal equipment when equipment is not available from their offices.  Many agencies have computers that people can take home.  Again, we are not saying a computer is required to telework.  You may only require a telephone. 

 

The costs associated with implementing telework are small when compared to the costs of not implementing such options; consider the costs of continued loss of employee productivity due to stress, low morale, burnout and turnover.   LA County, one of the largest telework programs in the country, found a 20:1 benefit to cost ratio in the fourth year of their telework program. 

 

A strong majority of State employees (83%) indicated that their job tasks were suitable for telework.  Sixty-seven percent of State employees have or would be willing to purchase the equipment necessary to allow them to telework.

 

 


 

Teleworkers cause more work for supervisors.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Managing employees on a flexible schedule will require more communication of the work product and expectations.  One of the extra benefits of flexible work options is that it forces management by task and objective.  Many managers have found that the increase in quality communication with employees has reduced their overall workload over time.  Reduced interaction with coworkers also forces communications to be more direct and business-like. 

 

Managers and supervisors felt that there was no difference supervising a teleworker or a non-teleworker, this was a non-issue.  In all six groups supervisors and managers reported selecting teleworkers based upon their previous good performance.  In the majority of cases, the telework employee had to agree upon tasks to perform while telework and this performance was monitored closely.  

 

Seventy-six percent of State non-teleworkers and 85% of State teleworkers disagreed with the statement that, "It takes more time to supervise a teleworker."

 

 


 

Teleworkers cause more work for coworkers.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Before telework, supervisors and teleworkers go through several training exercises to help them determine how they will manage their normal office duties without burdening coworkers.

 

When surveyed, coworkers repeatedly respond that telework does not impede the office routine and that the program should be expanded.

 

Seventy-five percent of State non-teleworker and 87% of State teleworkers disagreed with the statement that, "Having employees work at home makes my job more difficult."

 

Sixty-six percent of State non-teleworker and 72% of State teleworkers disagreed with the statement that, "Scheduling meetings around teleworkers causes difficulties in my work unit."

 

 


 

Our type of jobs aren't compatible to telework.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Research does not verify that complete businesses or categories of jobs are incompatible with telework.  Jobs are really just a collection of tasks.  Some tasks must be done at the office. Tasks which may be done away from the office are called teleworkable tasks.  The amount of telework an employee may do, depends on how many teleworkable tasks they have each week and whether the equipment required to accomplish those tasks is available. Telework is an individual arrangement where responsibilities are restructured to maintain work group integrity.  Those arrangements are created by confronting the concerns and working out solutions. 

 

A strong majority of non-teleworking respondents answered that they perform at least one teleworkable job task on a regular basis.  Of non-teleworking participants 83 percent indicated that their jobs task were suitable for telework.

 

The researcher noted that the major difference within groups occurred between those who were currently involved and those who had never been involved.  This typically occurred when a barrier was raised by a non-teleworking participant and a solution was suggested by a telework participant.  For example, to the stated objection by a focus group participant that his employees did not have job tasks that were suitable for telework, another supervisor currently supervising teleworkers responded that it was possible to reorganize job tasks so that telework was an option.

 

 


 

The public would not support State employees working from home.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Contrary to popular belief, the public understands the need for flexibility in the workplace and is in favor of offering the opportunity to qualified State employees. 

 

Almost seven out of ten of those surveyed responded favorably to a plan that would allow qualified State employees to work at home one or two days a week instead of driving to work.  The main reason people are favorable to a telework plan is that it would cut down on pollution and reduce traffic. Another frequently cited reason is that telework provides the ability to spend more time with family.

 

 


 

Our employees deal with confidential information so they can't telework.

 

What Experience Has To Say:

Information security is a legitimate concern but telework should not create a significantly greater concern than is currently the case in the office.  State telework policies stipulate that restricted access materials not leave the office without supervisory approval.  Again, teleworker/supervisor training and Telework Agreements are used to answer the individual concerns and needs of each teleworker, supervisor and their non-teleworking coworkers.  During the training, supervisors and teleworkers will go through several exercises to help them take a closer look at what it will be like to work apart from the office one or more days a week.  Worksheets help them identify and resolve potential complications before they become problems. 

 

While State employees considered immediate access information and reference materials to be important to their jobs, teleworkers were less likely to find this a barrier to telework.

 

Seventy-six percent of State non-teleworkers and 82% of State teleworkers disagreed with the statement that, "People who handle confidential information should not telework."

 

 


 

 
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State of Arizona Telework Program

100 N. 15th Avenue, Suite 431

Phoenix, Arizona 85007

(602) 542-7433