Home-based telework on the increase

In 10 years' time, up to 250,000 employees in Denmark may be involved in home-based telework, according to a new study conducted for the Ministry of Research and Information Technology.

According to the study, Analysis of the prevalence of home-based telework in Denmark, carried out by Andersen Management International for the Ministry of Research and Information Technology, it is estimated that the potential number of people carrying out home-based telework will increase over the next decade, from 9,000 at present to 250,000. The study defines home-based telework as situations where 20% or more of work is carried out from a home-based workplace using information technology. Home-based telework is expected to be more efficient if it is limited to two to three working days a week.

Because of the nature of the work involved, it is expected that the development of home-based telework will take place within the public sector, finance and insurance, the educational sector and certain parts of the industrial sector. Of all sectors, the public sector offers the greatest potential: approximately 30% of the overall expected increase, equal to 75,000 persons involved in home-based telework. The European Commission, in its study Telework developments and trends, estimated that the numbers involved in home-based telework in the EU will increase from 1.25 million (1994 figures) to about 10.4 million by 2000.

Apart from the more technical and economical obstacles, the social partners and other organisations which participated in the study, recognise that home-based telework requires further investigation and possible adjustments; the question of measuring working time is one. As home-based telework implies flexibility and an opportunity to integrate working life with family life and leisure time, measuring working time become difficult, thus offering management little or no chance of control. The social partners agree that the assessment of telework will increasingly be done on the basis of output and quality as much as time spent. The extent to which this will constitute a problem is still too early to say. Mutual trust between management and employees undertaking telework is a fundamental prerequisite, the study concludes. In time, a balance between management's legitimate need for control of working time and the flexible, and thus efficient, nature of telework will have to be worked out.

At the 1997 collective bargaining round in Denmark a number of social partners took the first steps toward regulating home-based telework in collective agreements. For example, within the government employment sector, the Ministry of Finance and theDanish Central Federation of State Employees (CFU) agreed to analyse and put forward a proposal for negotiations over a framework agreement, to be finalised by 1 January 1998 at the latest. In the discussions on a framework agreement on home-based telework, the following elements are to be taken into consideration:

  • the scope and coverage of the agreement;
  • the definition of home-based telework;
  • the conditions - ie, working time;
  • the level of agreement;
  • the question of voluntarism;
  • the arrangement of the home-based workplace;
  • the relationship with shop stewards; and
  • personnel policy and the social and professional attachment to the primary workplace.
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