What are the risks and challenges ?

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Any organisational change comes with some risk—introducing telework is no different. The common challenges and concerns for businesses include the practical day-to-day management of employees, for example, the safety of employees who are not physically in your office; whether they will be productive; and how you can communicate effectively with them. Other risks or concerns might be associated with the security of information; whether your IT infrastructure can cope; and how IT support can be provided remotely.

These are all concerns that can be managed if considered as part of your ongoing risk management practices. They should not become a barrier to starting telework.

Managing teleworkers

A common concern among managers is how to supervise teleworkers and ensure they are productive and meeting expectations. Traditional management styles based on the manager being able to keep watch on employees is more challenging with telework; so managing people remotely can present a major change for many managers.

You may need to consider adapting your business's management and leadership guidelines to implement telework successfully. Consider conducting specific telework training with managers and employees so both parties understand how performance and workload will be monitored; how communication between the teleworker, managers and others in the office is to occur; and how teleworkers can continue to access opportunities for training, development and advancement.

Communicating effectively

A feature of well-implemented telework is that it takes advantage of software and online tools that allows collaboration between staff, managers and teams. Technologies such as Time Tracking Software and conferencing can be used to improve communication and workplace management issues. It can also be used very effectively to overcome concerns about managing teleworking employees.

Telework Service providers will further improve the capacity and reliability of these technologies. The collaborative systems provided by telework Service providers will be available to all types of organisations across the country. Managers will be able to see the status of staff availability and the progress of their assigned tasks and projects using web-based management tools.

IT and Security

Security is a key consideration when you put telework arrangements in place. While encrypted Virtual Private Networks provide a good level of security, unencrypted email and USB drives are not a very secure way of sharing information. Providing a work computer or device (rather than the teleworker using their own personal computer) may help to mitigate the risks, and will assist with remote IT support. Alternatively, emerging technologies can provide similar security benefits by imitating a work operating environment using virtualisation, allowing teleworkers to 'bring their own devices' (BYOD) without reducing security.

Policies covering acceptable use of work computers and devices are an important component of telework policy. Restricting use to legitimate websites reduces exposure to security risks such as malware. This can be enforced through web/email filtering and monitoring. Telework policies should make clear that teleworker's personal use of the internet should generally be separate from their work device or environment. IT managers should have input to the development of security protocols in your telework policy.

Consider consulting an IT expert or your organisations' IT support person to help develop criteria about the type of IT infrastructure that will be best for your telework needs.

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