Workshop Report: Teleworking - the agony and the ecstacy

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In a workshop session of two/three the debate may still be enlightening!

Jon Seaton Hi Richard

Richard Rothwell hi there - was getting lonely

Jon Seaton There's still a few minutes to the official start time at 13.00. Let's hope some more will join us by then!

Richard Rothwell have you used these workshops before?

Jon Seaton Yes Richard, I'm the Editor for HR Zone. But they are very simple to use. Is this a first for you?

Richard Rothwell not really - I've done loads of conferencing and collaboration using various web tools- but never one on such a short time scale

Jon Seaton What's your interest in teleworking, Richard?

Richard Rothwell I'm currently an ICT teacher and am looking for a career change. So I'll either end up doing it or supporting it!

Jon Seaton I think that there may well be many others who will do the same!

Richard Rothwell I do work at (and from home) quite a bit, but that's fairly standard for teachers, marking, planning,etc. But I've also done a lot of web writing and so on form home. Every now and then I officially get time allocated to work from home so i'm not disturbed.

Jon Seaton ...and how do you feel about working from home?

Ann Mertens I'm not working from home but interested in this online course

Jon Seaton Hi Ann, Richard and I were just starting, to catch up on the conversation click on the link at the bottom of the screen

Richard Rothwell I like it - the commuting is certainly the best bit :-)

Ann Mertens have you already attended a course like this? and what will happen now?

Jon Seaton Cutting the "commute" is often seen as one of the biggest advantages

Ann Mertens this seems more like a chat room...

Jon Seaton (just join in the conversation Ann, and we'll see what experiences come out)

Jon Seaton For my part, I'm Editor for HR Zone. My office is in Bristol but I work from home most of the time, but....today I'm in Bristol. I came down for a meeting

Richard Rothwell I find the ability to work undisturbed to be the best feature of work at home.

Ann Mertens so, a conversation... but i thougt it was going to be a workshop...

Jon Seaton Ann. It's a workshop in that it is a forum where we can exchange ideas, suggestions, insights, learning experiences etc

Richard Rothwell one of the many advantage of chat room to f2f meetings is that several threads can run side by side.

Richard Rothwell What are your expreiences then Jon?

Jon Seaton My home is in Lincolnshire, my MD lives in the lake district, and as Editor for HR Zone, most of my colleagues are based in Bristol. Maintaining a good communications process is essential to being able to perform the job function properly

Richard Rothwell so do your f2f meetings have a very different agenda to on-line ones?

Jon Seaton Sometimes, but not always. However, by attending the office, it can reduce isolationism, and allow more informal networking.

Ann Mertens I'm sorry, but I don't think a chatroom is the best way to exchange experiences...

Jon Seaton It's just one of many ways Ann, what do you see as the downside?

Ann Mertens by running ideas side by side, you loose the coherence? One is answering a question and the other ones are already discussing something else

Ann Mertens what do you mean?

Richard Rothwell coherence is hard, in my experience, on-line decision making is a nightmare, but discussion and exploration of ideas is fruitful

Jon Seaton With a geographically dispersed group of people, a "chat-forum" such as this allows a transcripted conversation. But it could be that other facilities such as web-conferencing or teleconferencing may be more suitable

Ann Mertens but Jon, why do you call this a workshop, when it is only a chatroom?

Jon Seaton What happens with these sessions is that the conversations that can be developed may be beneficial to the participants, but they also can be read by others when we post it to the sites. I suppose it depends how one defines a workshop Ann. To us it's an open discussion allowing development of ideas. We can keep the discussion to a particular topic for different workshop subjects.

Richard Rothwell there are a limited number of tools to use - an if you're working synchronous then a chat room is the clear choice at the moment.

Ann Mertens I'm sorry, but I thougt this was going to be somthing else... have a nice day!

Jon Seaton Going back to your earlier point Richard, I think that the technology allows great discussion potential. But the purpose of the technology is to support the work and not to drive it

Richard Rothwell hmm, not sure I agree with that - a lot of teleworking is technologically driven- what I mean by that is that the jobs themselves have been modified (or created) by technology and that leads to them being done from home.

Jon Seaton Well, I can partly go with that....

Jon Seaton The increase in technology usage has undoubtedly led to more job roles...

Jon Seaton some of which can be performed remotely.

Richard Rothwell question... if you were editing a text based publication would it be as easy technically and in social/employment terms to work from home?

Jon Seaton text based as in paper copy?

Richard Rothwell sorry, yes

Jon Seaton Technically probably - but editorial functions can mean deciding what other materials go into the publication....

Jon Seaton as long as everyone eles contributing can also communicate electronically with you it could still wook

Jon Seaton in social/employment terms - it's probably easier from home!

Richard Rothwell but it's more likely to be acceptable in a more 'techie' organisation?

Jon Seaton I think - a personal opinion - that the world is still seeing some division between technology users and technology rejecters....

Jon Seaton the tide has turned but there is still some resentment against learning new technology skills

Richard Rothwell Absolutely! You should try training teachers...

Jon Seaton so in answer, yes, teleworking is more acceptable in an organisational structure/culture that broadly sees advantages from using technology

Jon Seaton With groups who don't see any advantage then it becomes a laborious task

Richard Rothwell Is there a sort of conclusion here that people who are more likely to be happy working from home are more likely to be working for organisations that would allow it?

Jon Seaton I think that's a safe conclusion Richard.

Richard Rothwell BT did it with some of their directory enquiries workers, but I seem to remember they canned the experiment and moved them back into call centres

Jon Seaton I think that the issue of how to manage teleworkers is one which is largely ignored.

Jon Seaton Too many managers are still tied into an old patern of controlling through time spent on a task, and time accountability

Richard Rothwell Works well with task based managment I'd guess

Jon Seaton Management of teleworkers needs a clear understanding of job function and accountability and expected outcomes - yes, easier on task based issues.

Richard Rothwell so it's easy with you :-)

Jon Seaton But it also fetches into question the whole issue of employee involvement with organisational missions/goals and the degree of employee ownership of job functions

Richard Rothwell ok so it would work with high equity employees

Jon Seaton Easier with me? At times, but my role also means a great deal of relationship building, both internally and externally. Less task based and much more touchy feely stuff!

Jon Seaton High equity? How do you mean?

Richard Rothwell people who have equity in the company - as often happens in start-ups, and traditionally happens with professionals like lawyers, etc.

Jon Seaton I wondered! No, I was meaning that where the employee has bought into the organisational goals, and can see that their job function plays a part in achieving those goals. Where the employee has "bought in" then I think there is a higher liklihood of using different methods of working - including teleworking - to achieve those shared aims.

Jon Seaton Buying into the idea of the goals/outcomes not an equity shareholding.

Richard Rothwell Similarity - making people feel that they have shared values (as opposed to dosh)

Jon Seaton Yes! The use of technology for telecommuters can support the shared values.

Jon Seaton The online "community" feel of the job role can be one of the benefits for the teleworker.

Richard Rothwell and of course trusting people is a good way of encouraging them to work with you

Jon Seaton More a case of working with each other to reach the desired outcomes.

Richard Rothwell anyway Jon, I need to go. Been interesting, sorry you didn't get more (interesting) people into the workshop.

Jon Seaton Richard, I was about to wrap it up now. Thanks for joining. Hope to see you in here soon.

Richard Rothwell OK- will see what next interests me. rgds,

Richard Rothwell Richard

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