February is a mix of holidays big (Valentine's Day, President's Day, My Wife's Birthday) and small (Groundhog Day, Sri Lankan Independence Day), but there's something coming up in March that's also worthy of attention (I'm a size L if that helps).
March 5-9 is Telework Week 2012 in the US. Telework Week is a national initiative encouraging organizations and individuals to pledge to telework on March 5-9, 2012. It supports flexible work arrangements for working families, increases employee productivity and morale, and improves employer recruitment and retention efforts.
Since so many teams are made up of people who work remotely, either full time or just on occasion, we thought we'd share some interesting facts from the folks at the Telework Exchange, who are, along with Cisco, behind the concept.
What are some of the statistics around telework that we might not be aware of?
The numbers are certainly there around savings: real estate costs, commuting costs, even attrition and turnover rates. For example,
- Just with the 30,000 pledges so far, the savings add up to almost US $2Million
- The US Patent and Trademark Office has saved nearly $19 Million in real estate and office costs
- Cisco, one of the sponsors of the concept saved almost $299 Million in 2009 by supporting telework. It has a very real impact on the bottom line
Telework Week is a US event, but obviously the concept is relevant almost anywhere. What countries "get" telework, and which don't?
A recent poll by Reuters found that about one in five workers around the world telework frequently, noting that about 10 percent work from home every day. While the United States falls somewhere in the middle of the rankings, telework was found to be most popular in India, Indonesia, and Mexico.
Countries that reported less than 10 percent in telework participation included Hungary, Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and Canada. Recently, Australia has jump-started its telework strategy with a Telework Week program.
On an editorial note, as someone who has lived most of his life with winter, this seems backwards, but what do I know?
What are some of the common challenges associated with teleworking, and what are some of the solutions people have come up with?
Often an expected challenge related to telework is that employees will feel isolated when they telework Ė but with the various collaboration technologies that are available, this problem is solved easily. IT providers, like Cisco, offer many technology solutions that greatly enhance collaboration. Virtual office solutions allow colleagues to interact via video conferencing and mobile applications allow workers on the go to easily stay in touch with in-office colleagues.
It' important to remember that even if the workforce is distributed near and far geographically, stay social! We've heard stories from various agencies who have sent pizzas to each teleworker to have a virtual pizza party and another similar story where a group of employees hosted a virtual retirement party for a co-worker.
No matter where it's happening, telework an initiative that faces unique challenges within each individual agency or organization. As telework is a newer concept for some agencies, when they initiate their programs for the first time it is likely that they will uncover challenges Ė this is why we highly recommend that agencies leverage telework pilot programs.
Pilots provide an opportune time to test IT infrastructure and network components and allow employees and managers to have a glimpse into the cultural changes that telework brings.
Companies can make a big deal of telework week, or try something simple. Like acknowledging your teleworkers actually exist. That would be nice - and presents are optional.
Did I mention I was a size L?