Case studies document practical experience of teleworking

A qualitative research project, carried out for the Employment and Training Corporation, sought to identify and recommend national reforms required to make telework a feasible option for individuals and organisations wishing to adopt this form of work. The research includes three case studies of local companies in Malta offering some form of telework. The study’s findings were published in March 2005.

In March 2005, the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC) published the findings of a research project entitled ‘An enabling framework for telework’ (425Kb PDF). The study provides details of the current local situation with regard to telework and identifies the developmental changes that are occurring in the labour market, most of which are due to technological advances in the information technology (IT) sector. As no comprehensive legal framework covering telework exists yet in Malta, this form of work is being used on an informal or ad hoc basis.

This research project sought to establish a guide for the use of telework by individuals and companies in Malta. It includes three case studies of large companies which offer some form of telework and which agreed to participate in interviews on the topic. The project also includes interviews with three employees who carry out telework for these organisations. The report does not indicate the precise number of enterprises contacted, the specific criteria relating to how the employees were chosen and the questions asked at interview stage.

Company case studies

The three organisations taking part in the research were the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), SAGA Holidays and the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST).

MCA is the national agency responsible for the regulation of the telecommunications sector. In the agency, an ad hoc type of telework is being used by senior workers. The main factors driving the use of telework are the needs of these employees to work away from their main office and a problem of limited office space.

SAGA Holidays is an international tour operator specialising in holidays for older people. At present, various teleworking activities are in use within the company due to the nature of the work. Since employees are constantly dealing with people and requests have to be handled efficiently and effectively, all staff members need access to laptop/notebook computers and mobile phones. This enables them to offer services from wherever they are, hence avoiding the reliance on an office space.

MCST is the national advisory body to the government on science and technology policy. As a substantial part of the work is carried out after normal office hours, informal telework practices are used at MCST. Telework is especially used by researchers and executives.

Employee case studies

A summary of the conclusions which emerged as a result of the interviews carried out with the three participants revealed that, overall, telework was economically beneficial to all interviewees and respondents felt that it improved their work performance. However, improved work performance was often related to longer working hours; the exact number of hours worked is not available as part of the study’s results. Participants stated that telework contributed positively to their career development, allowed them to overcome issues while away from the office and did not isolate them from work colleagues. Access to email was one of the tools that enabled teleworkers to maintain their ongoing contacts as well as to establish new ones.

Respondents also indicated that telework did not have a negative effect on their commuting time or personal income, with one respondent reporting considerable financial benefits. It should be emphasised that the teleworkers were not necessarily working at home, in which case there would be obvious commuting benefits. Rather, they had the facility to work on a mobile basis as required for the job. At the same time, they were not aware of any health and safety issues related to telework. On the other hand, according to the small group of interviewees, telework did not lead to improved use of office space and resources.

Furthermore, employees reported that sometimes they experienced difficulties in balancing work and family life, which resulted in a slight increase of conflict at home. If there was a perception among respondents of having free time at home, they felt obliged to continue working, for example by checking emails or project status, which inevitably resulted in family members feeling isolated. Moreover, family conflicts put respondents under additional stress. Indeed one of the respondents also reported a slightly negative effect on health due to higher stress levels and having less time to exercise.

Commentary

This research project is probably the first of its kind to focus on the issue of telework in Malta. The study highlighted various aspects of this form of work and made useful recommendations to the government and the social partners on policy reforms. It would be valuable for competent authorities such as the National Statistics Office (NSO) to carry out further quantitative research to explore other dimensions of telework in Malta.

Further information

ETC has also published a summary of the study’s results, entitled ‘Telework – Is it for me?’ (341Kb PDF). The summary provides an outline of the benefits and implementation of telework options in Malta, together with best practice examples of teleworking.

Christine Farrugia, Centre for Labour Studies

 

 

 

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