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Teleworking can be described as a practice where people can now work from their homes or from any other convenient location away from the actual workplace. It moves work to the workers rather than workers to the work. The increased advancement of technology and telecommunications has opened up the possibility for this type of work practice to be more effective. There may not be a set pattern for teleworking because it will depend on the nature of the job and the functions of the company, thus resulting in a variation in how teleworking is practiced throughout the world.

In a number of countries such as the United States, teleworking has become the way of life for employees, where as, there are other countries where there is a much slower advancement of technology, therefore, the increase in the number of people working from home is gradual.

Teleworking offers significant benefits to both employers and employees. The benefits of teleworking to employers are many. One of the greatest being, increased productivity which may arise from reduced distractions of an office environment, for example having to answer a number of telephone calls, less time spent in traveling to and from work and more flexible work arrangements. These factors allows for less time to be wasted by employees which results in more tasks being performed, thus boosting the productivity level. Teleworking results in cost savings in both office overheads and labour (eg. company cars, rent, office equipment, salaries and overtime costs). There is no need for office space therefore the employer don’t incur the cost associated in running an office. The practice of teleworking also leads to a highly motivated workforce seeing that employees are given the opportunity by their employers to adopt a more independent work style. Employees respond well when their employers place more confidence and trust in them. Teleworking can also mean fewer sick leaves and less absenteeism. For example, where staff take time off from work for situations such as family emergencies, in most instances employees tend to take an entire day off but with the teleworker, once the situation has been dealt with, he/she will be able to resume work duties without having the difficulty of journeying back to the workplace. By offering the opportunity to telework, there is a reduction in staff turnover due to the flexibility in the working hours. Employers tend to attract employees who are looking to balance family and work commitments which more than likely will cause them to stay longer with the organization.

The benefits to the employees are also many. These include reduced travel time and the stress associated with it, which will allow the employee more time for relaxation. This obviously leads to financial savings in transportation costs as well. Teleworkers also benefit from less disruption to family life because they are spending either some or all of their working week in their homes, whilst most of us are still getting on with the 8 � 4 work day, some of which may be pushing it from 8 � 6 if traveling is taken into consideration. Quality of life is therefore much improved with a better balance between work and family life. Another benefit of the teleworker is the freedom of choice in choosing where to live. He/she do not have to consider locality or distance to or from the office when choosing a home. In a situation for example, where a spouse has to move because of their job, the teleworker would not be compromised and would continue to be employed. Teleworking can be ideal for employees with special needs who may have difficulty dealing with the time and travel constraints of having to go to and from the workplace. This may be due to his/her inability to be physically mobile as a result of an accident, physical problems which may have occurred at birth or just old age. This will obviously build a sense of purpose and increase the self esteem of these individuals.

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Of course there are the disadvantages or drawbacks of teleworking which affects the employers such as the inability to control and monitor work activities. Employers may be concerned with how much as well as the quality and standard of work that is done by the employees. Employers are forced to place a certain level of autonomy and trust on its employees, as opposed to the traditional method of the big stick approach which they find difficult to shake off. Teleworking has a negative effect on teamwork and team spirit also, due to the isolation and remoteness of workers. There is the inability to brainstorm ideas, as well as the camaraderie amongst peers and information through the “grapevine” concept is not possible. There is not even any room for the development of an “organizational culture” that is, the different attitudes, values, behavioural patterns and expectations that are normally shared within the workplace. For teleworking to be effective, there is need to have technology updated, as well as it may be necessary to purchase new equipment which would enhance the speed and capacity at which information can be transferred from offices to the employees homes. The employer is faced with having to incur significant costs to ensure that this is in place. Security Control is another disadvantage that is faced by employers. There may be some sensitive material that employers may prefer to have private and confidential and due to employees working from their homes, it may be difficult to have some measure of control over these types of material, for example there may be unauthorised persons who may be tampering or reading these documents.

Employees also face a number of disadvantages as well. One of the major ones being a small compensation package. Most times these employees are not paid a fixed salary but are paid according to how much work is done. This may however result in teleworkers being stressed and pressured to work day and night to ensure that their output level is high enough to benefit from a good pay packet. Teleworkers may also find some difficulty in switching off once work is over because they may not be sure as to when to draw the line seeing that work is home and home is work, where as having to travel home would have put the distance between working and home life. If teleworkers don’t have enough self control and self discipline, this could lead to either persons becoming workaholics or more attention may be placed on family than their work. Teleworkers need dedicated workspace in their homes. This would obviously lead to higher bills, such as electricity, furniture and other costs that may be incurred in setting up a space conducive for work. Therefore the overhead costs are transferred from organizations to individuals themselves. Another disadvantage that they face, is the fear of losing opportunities such as promotion, training and other career development programmes because sometimes out of sight means out of mind. Teleworkers also miss the office camaraderie, group spirit and team work. This may cause feelings of isolation which in turn can cause low morale seeing that persons value day to day interaction with others. The opportunity to gain interpersonal development by having to interact amongst co-workers is lost as well.

Apart from the direct impact teleworking has on the organization and its people, it also has some advantages on society as a whole. One of the major ones being the reduction in air pollution due to the reduction in the number of persons having to travel to and from work by car and it also reduces the traffic congestion in some areas. People using there cars less also means less road accidents. Teleworking also contributes to improved family life because it allows people the time and opportunity to focus on family values.

Teleworking as a concept, has been around for years but it is only with the continuous development of new technology that it has become an option for many organizations and will continue into the future due to the fast growing pace at which technology advancement is growing. With careful planning and forethought, teleworking can be used to the advantage of both the employer and employees and more opportunities may also arise.

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