Telework: Practical Experience and Future Prospects
Margrethe H. Olson Graduate School of Business Administration New York University
This chapter discusses current experience with work at home, primarily from an organizational perspective. First, the impact of technology on work organization is discussed, leading to the conclusion that the factors making work at home feasible are primarily factors of work organization. Four profiles of at- home employment that are based on two critical factors are described: the degree to which the employee's skill is in demand and the severity of the employee's "nonwork" constraints limiting employment choices.
The second part of the chapter describes an exploratory survey of 14 companies with formal work-at-home pilot programs and 6 companies with informal work-at-home arrangements. Although the pilots were viewed by management as moderately successful, most were not continued on a regular basis. The tentative conclusions from the survey are the following: (a) The primary interest in work at home of organizations is based on the need to acquire skills in short supply. The need for employees to have flexible work options is not a major concern. Traditional "on-site" management styles provide a major deterrent; (b) The technology supporting work at home is not a major factor today. In the future, when highly integrated office systems exist, technology may play a greater role; (c) In general, organizations will be altered through decentralization facilitated by location independence of jobs. New organizational forms may increase both organizational and individual flexibility.
The purpose of this chapter is two-fold: (a) to analyze telework from the point of view of work organization and personal choice; and (b) to provide a brief overview of company experiments with telework. The reader is referred to the previous chapter for a complete discussion of the social and