Teleworking at home

A study on teleworking at home explores the motivations of employees and employers in adopting this form of work. It also examines the impact of telework on work organisation, work-life balance and work values. Four main types of telework can be distinguished.

Teleworking is based on the use of computers by knowledge and communication workers. A study on teleworking (available for purchase; in German) focused on highly and medium qualified workers teleworking at home at least one day per week. The study is based on a combination of narrative and semi-structured in-depth interviews with teleworkers. The sample includes 34 case studies.

Key features

A fundamental precondition for employed teleworkers is a trust relationship, typically developed over several years of service. Only clearly defined tasks suitable to be conducted on an individual basis are appropriate for teleworking.

Teleworking at home requires a high degree of self-organisation of work, implying a tendency towards greater than average self-determination in work.

Significant impacts of teleworking include:

  • maintaining the gender segregation in the labour market and within the family context;
  • changes in the entire work arrangement, even in cases where only some of the work is carried out as teleworking;
  • changes in communication structures and a stronger focus on core issues;
  • a results-oriented control of work.

Typology of teleworking at home

Four main types of teleworking are distinguished based on the motives of workers and companies, areas of activities, employment status, working conditions and different practices of organising work and non-working life.

Family-related

Family-related teleworking is taken up in the context of care for children or family members. The main motive on the management side is to keep valued employees in the company.

Working practices are characterised by a frequent switch between gainful and family work, with atypical working hours. Normally, one fixed working day within the company is agreed upon.

Single parents with (almost) full-time work commitments tend to work in the office in the morning and at home in the evening and at the weekend, devoting the afternoons to childcare. They have limited time for personal recreation.

Family-related teleworkers (in the sample, all female) tend to try combining both spheres.

Performance-related

The primary motive is professional. Work is based on highly specialised professional knowledge and tends to involve work for entire days either at home or in the office. Additional work in the evening or at weekends is common.

The benefit for management is to offer employees a retreat from disturbances and the opportunity to concentrate better on concept and problem-solving tasks. Teleworking at home is considered to be very efficient.

At home, a clear separation from private and family life exists, with at most temporary interruptions. In households with children, childcare is provided internally by a partner or externally.

Mobile workers

Complementary tasks in relation to customer service are conducted at home. Teleworking is not voluntary but a result of a removal or a downsizing of regional sales offices and transfer of office work to ‘home offices’. Younger employees accept the work arrangement and enjoy cutting down on commuting, appreciating the opportunity for greater autonomy regarding working time. However, older workers feel a social isolation and a loss of status. They complain about having to perform additional tasks, while companies highlight the benefits of rationalised reporting procedures.

A clear separation of gainful work and private life is made. Work at weekends is common.

Self-employed

The formal key distinction of self-employed teleworkers is that they are responsible for establishing their workplace at home and lack commercial office space. Frequently, these specialists work in the offices of their clients for some days a week. Companies are happy to hire support services and outsource special peripheral expert tasks.

Self-employed teleworkers either engage in their own production and marketing of information and knowledge services, are economically dependent on one client, or work for various clients.

These teleworkers have a high degree of latitude regarding the organisation of work and private life. It is possible to identify three basic types of work attitude within this category:

  • The first group of self-employed teleworkers create a clear differentiation between work and non-working life. Non-working priorities determine the amount of time given to the work schedule.
  • The second group also establishes a separation between work and non-working life. However, a driving work ambition sometimes cuts into non-working time.
  • In the case of the third group, the boundaries between work and leisure activity become blurred; a keen interest in the work content overrides its actual monetary value.

The table summarises the main teleworking typologies.

Key features of four types of teleworking
Key features of four types of teleworking
Features Family-related Performance-related Mobile customer service (One-person) Self-employed
Areas of activity Specialist, expert, management tasks Specialist, expert, management tasks Customer support and sales Expert tasks, product creation and marketing
Initiative of: Management or employee Agreement between management and employee Instruction by management Own initiative
Main motivations of employees Work-life balance Strong performance orientation/centrality of work Job security; individual flexibility (Divergent) motives of self-realisation
Purpose Gainful employment during family phase More effective work at home Company: savings in office space Client companies: external flexibility; Teleworkers: work beyond dependent employment
Time horizon Temporary Indefinite Ongoing Ongoing
Working time volume Part-time or full-time Full-time Full-time plus regular overtime work Wide variations
Share of teleworking at home One day to 50% per week One to two days per week One quarter to one third of the entire working time volume In general at home, but often also in client companies

Anni Weiler, AWWW GmbH ArbeitsWelt - Working World

Reference

Kleemann, F., Die Wirklichkeit der Teleheimarbeit, Eine arbeitssoziologische , Untersuchung, Berlin, 2005.

 

 

 

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