Telework Still in Its Infancy

The idea of working from a distance with the help of modern information and communication technologies (ICTs) has been with us for three decades now.

According to the most optimistic predictions by some scholars and policy makers, it was envisaged that by the turn of the millennium most, if not all, clerical workers would be familiar with teleworking. However, from today’s perspective it is clear that this has not happened. Much like getting rid of paper in offices, escaping the constraints of time and space has proven difficult even in the most technologically interconnected information societies.

According to a recently published research in the context of Finland, one of the most advanced economies in the world, with a sophisticated technological infrastructure, only four per cent of Finnish wage earners regarded themselves as doing telework in 2000, the definition being work done at home under an employment contract. Another four per cent had tried telework, but nonetheless more than nine employees in ten had never experimented with it.

The study also revealed that a need for close physical collaboration with peers is among the most important reasons explaining why telework has failed to live up to its initial promises. Other reasons hindering organizational reforms include old-fashioned managerial norms and attitudes. If telework is to be adopted on a large scale, management has to shift its focus from traditional means of controlling work processes and employee behaviour to the evaluation of performance and end results.

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Engineering and research-driven innovations in the field of communications are addressed here, in addition to business developments in the field of media-wide communications.

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