For employers, in addition to reduced office costs and increased productivity, organizations that have telework programs cite a number of other benefits that warrant attention (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990). Work satisfaction criteria that many organizations take very seriously given the increased importance of human resources in today's knowledge-driven economy shows dramatic increases (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990). Surveys taken by many companies show increases in work satisfaction of 20% or more among those that are allowed to utilize telework (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990).
Work quality also improves with lower error rates among teleworkers (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990). Positive impacts are also demonstrated in the form of lower turnover and decreased absenteeism (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990). A Pacific Bell study found that teleworkers were absent 25% fewer days than their traditional colleagues (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990). All of these factors reinforce one another and lead to improved productivity figures (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990).
Teleworking benefits employers in other ways as well (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990). Organizations can use these methods to tap new labour pools: for example, disabled workers, people who do not want to relocate or commute long distances, a parent with a newborn child who otherwise would opt to not work (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990). Telework also allows an organization considerable flexibility in staffing temporary jobs by outsourcing work to virtual workers (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990).
At the same time, companies report several drawbacks with telework (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990). The principal potential disadvantages to the organization include lack of commitment to the organisational goals and culture and problems of communication and supervision (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990). Communications is the number one concern of employees (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990). This is followed by teamwork difficulties and concerns about career advancement opportunities, which is a drawback for employees, but also affects how they feel about their job and therefore how much time and effort they put into it (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990). Ultimately, this affects the company (Di Martino & Wirth, 1990).
The issue of supervising can be addressed through training programs and the gradual process of becoming comfortable with managing teleworkers and virtual teams (Haddon, 1998). In fact, a recent study found that already "83% of all American employees work at a distance or with a colleague who does (Haddon, 1998). Of this number, more than half - 51% -- are physically away from the office at least some of the time (Haddon, 1998)."
Employees also benefit from Telework in a number of ways (Haddon, 1998). The principle advantages of telework to the employees include autonomy, increased job satisfaction, freedom from time constraints, bridging the career gap, obtaining a better balance between work and home life and eliminating commuting costs and time (Haddon, 1998). Employees stand to benefit from telework in a number of work and non-work related ways (Haddon, 1998). These time savings translate into "quality of work life benefits, quality of family life benefits, quality of social life benefits, and career development opportunities (Haddon, 1998)."
In respect to work related benefits, teleworkers report greater work satisfaction, higher morale, and a greater commitment to work, all of which leads to greater productivity (Haddon, 1998). One recent study showed that technology workers would "give up their fast-track careers, opportunities for promotion into management and even rises if only they could have one thing: the opportunity, if only part time, to work from home (Haddon, 1998)."
Some of the advantages of teleworking include (Ambry, 1988):
Increased job satisfaction
Freedom from time constraints
Bridging the career gap
Obtaining a better balance between work and home life
Eliminating commuting costs
Quality of work life benefits
Quality of family life benefits
Quality of social life benefits
Career development opportunities
Greater work satisfaction
Greater commitment to work (Ambry, 1988).
Other advantages include such unexpected issues as the reduction of pollution in the air from less vehicles on the road and the ability to expand business while still taking care of the environment and the economy (Piskurich, 1996).
On the negative side, telework has a lot of disadvantages for the individual (Piskurich, 1996). Perhaps the most frequently expressed concerns are those of feelings of isolation from one's fellow workers and being out-of-sight and out-of-mind (Piskurich, 1996). These two concerns are inter-related (Piskurich, 1996). For many, the workplace goes some way towards satisfying the higher needs of self-esteem and social acceptance and may even allow self-actualization (Piskurich, 1996).
However, a person who participates at a minimum level in the organization is considered to be a "stunted individual" even though he may be satisfactorily fulfilling all of the needs hierarchy outside it (Piskurich, 1996). This perception has persisted and is not an uncommon one in the business environment (Piskurich, 1996). Accordingly, it is thought that such an individual, demonstrating a lack of commitment to the organisation by working in a less conventional manner such as working from home, is likely to be overlooked for important tasks and promotion and may not be taken into the confidence of his immediate supervisors and managers (Piskurich, 1996). This is in turn, likely to increase the feelings of isolation and the inability to fulfil social needs (Piskurich, 1996).
Constraints on the individual that can be related to the organisation include lack of employer support, managerial disapproval, failure to organise work to allow telecommuters to partake in a wide range of tasks and take part in attractive or special projects (Piskurich, 1996). Even if senior management supports the concept, it is important for the local supervisor to support the individual teleworker (Piskurich, 1996).
Absence from the conventional workplace can result in staff not being informed about office politics, changes in managerial priorities and opportunities (Schettler, 2002) (Piskurich, 1996). Other disadvantages of telework include poor pay and fringe benefits, increase in conflicts between work and family life, increase in routine tasks for the employee's increase of isolation leading to career marginalization (Piskurich, 1996).
Quality of family life benefits and quality of social life benefits are impossible to quantify, yet anecdotal evidence suggests that the freedom to structure the 24-day is a tremendous benefit for balancing work, family and social commitments (Piskurich, 1996).
Despite the corporate, individual and societal advantages, telecommuting is not believed by all to be an actual employee benefit (Piskurich, 1996). "It's not a benefit like life insurance that everyone's got to have (Piskurich, 1996). it's a work option that both the manager and the employee come to an agreement on (Piskurich, 1996)." Hence, in the recent years, there has been an increase in the demand from the employers for flexible working arrangements such as teleworking, which helps the workers achieve a more satisfactory work life balance (Piskurich, 1996).
There are technology issues that are also present in telecommuting, such as security, the operating environment, and getting remote access to what is needed. The rest of the paper will be devoted to looking at those areas, as well as looking at cyber ethics, as they are an important component of today's increasingly Web-based business, and they are an area that has often been overlooked when it comes to teaching individuals about what types of behavior they should be engaging in.
Because the access to communication technology and computers has been increasing so strongly utilizing technologies to work somewhere other than the central office is becoming more significant for many companies (Nilles, Carlson, Gray, & Hanneman, 1976). Even though there were many definitions of it, as has been mentioned, it is generally called telework or telecommuting regardless of the way it takes place (Nilles, Carlson, Gray, & Hanneman, 1976). Since has been around since the 1970s it is not a new concept but the interest in it has grown very rapidly within recent years (Nilles, Carlson, Gray, & Hanneman, 1976). There is a much larger volume of literature on the issue now then there has been in the past (Nilles, Carlson, Gray, & Hanneman, 1976).
When looked at from an international level the quantity of data that is available on telecommuting, as well as the quality of data, is somewhat difficult to detect (Nilles, Carlson, Gray, & Hanneman, 1976). There are only a few countries that have done any substantial research, and most of it has been here in the United States (Nilles, Carlson, Gray, & Hanneman, 1976). In Australia, for example, most of the information that is offered is very sporadic and limited to only certain companies (Nilles, Carlson, Gray, & Hanneman, 1976). One study that was done in that country indicated that only 5% of adults that were employed at a particular business were able to access the server of that particular employer from their home over the Internet (Nilles, Carlson, Gray, & Hanneman, 1976). Only 4% of these adults were allowed to work from home because they had some type of teleworking…