Technological innovation is one of the defining features of industrialised societies, which is currently changing the nature of work and organisations. There are various new modes of work introduced due to the developments in computing and telecommunications and the two I will focus on are: home based teleworking and the call centre. Home-based teleworking is the option that unites the place of work with daily life by establishing the office at home. Homeworking (as it is otherwise known) involves an employee working for either part or all of his contracted working hours at home, as opposed to working in an office or other workplace. The practice of teleworking refers to the working at a remote location away from the central workplace, using information communication technology such as the Internet.
Working from home has different effects on both employees and their employers. It is beneficial for employers for two main reasons: 1. It has direct cost advantages in saving on office space and overheads. This is more likely to be true when the organisation is expanding or where space is at a premium and can be used for effective purposes. 2. A company’s home-based employees’ can arguably work more efficiently than those based in the office. Some surveys suggest that people working from home are up to 30% more productive than their office based colleagues (www.cmb.org.uk/resources/family friends/working.pdf). These gains may be due to the way home-based working is planned and managed and broken into measurable chunks. Also, fatigue and stress, related to commuting will decrease and lead to an improvement in productivity of a worker.
However, home-based working can result in potential problems for employers, two of which are explained below: 1) Monitoring workflow becomes a problem as in essence, individuals become invisible to managers. This makes it difficult for managers to assess progress of individuals within the company. 2) There are higher start up costs and a typical home-based worker would need special office furniture and equipment, which would need to be bought.
Working from home also has advantages for employees of companies for the following reasons:Distinction between work and private life – when working at home without enough space or telephone lines, there will be a difficulty in separating work life from home life. This could reduce the worker’s productivity and may also impact on other members of the family. Having discussed the different impacts working from home has on employers and employees; I will now briefly explain a couple of further issues regarding the effects of homeworking on society.
Firstly, working from home on a reasonable scale results in an improvement of urban traffic congestion. Therefore, other workers who live far away from the city would be more flexible and this would help reduce their travelling times. Secondly, it will help reduce environmental problems and reduce energy consumption. Working from home enables the information communications to replace some commuting and business trip. Therefore, it is likely that there will be a reduction in car trips, energy consumption and the emission of air pollutants that result in global warming.
However, in contrast to the above point, energy costs from working at home could actually rise with things like more heating, lighting and boiling the kettle triggering this. Companies would aim though to offset increased household energy consumption by reducing energy use where fewer workers are in the office or by encouraging employees to share space and resources and minimise wastage.
To conclude the issue of homeworking then, its development is technology driven and the different forms of technology make homeworking possible but the consequences and effects of homeworking depend only partly on technology and primarily on how we decide to apply and use the technology when contemplating whether to work from home. Ideally, potential pitfalls can be avoided if employers and employees carefully consider what they want from a homeworking arrangement and set it up effectively through compromising. A way to do this could be by the worker only going in to the office once or twice a week. This gives both sides the opportunity to communicate, evaluate progress and spend time developing working relationships.
A second new form of working is the Call Centre. They can be defined as physical locations where calls are placed or received, in high volume for sales, marketing, customer service, telemarketing, technical support or other specialised business activity. Call centres depend on highly sophisticated telephone systems for the automatic rerouting of calls, so that a customer’s call may be answered at a centre hundreds or thousands of miles away. Call centres have already played a considerable part in the restructuring of the bank and financial services sector and are also common in insurance companies.
Call centres tend to have higher levels of absenteeism and staff turnover. This is because the workers are less likely to enjoy their job and in general, are being treated like machines. This eventually will result in them having less commitment to their job hence the higher rates of absenteeism and staff turnover. It is interesting to note that there are links between call centres and Taylorism in that some call centres do employ Tayloristic technologies of control by recruiting low skilled personnel with temporary contracts or as contingent workers.
So, in conclusion we see that although call centres are changing the nature of work, the quality of working life and performance of employees in these call centres is not only determined by technology but also influenced mainly by the way in which call centre jobs are organised and managed. The layout of facilities, the degree of variety and autonomy, the opportunities for job rotation and the nature of supervision are all matters of managerial choice that are not determined by the technology.
Bibliography and References
1) Organisational Behaviour 5th edition David Buchanan and Andrzej Huczynski (pages 74-81) Prentice Hall
2) Principles of Organisational Behaviour 3rd edition Robin Fincham and Peter Rhodes (page 465) Oxford University Press http://www.soumu.go.jp