TASK 1 (a)
Inductive – Consensual
Derives a conclusion from a limited set of observations.
For example, the situation is a bit simpler than this one, but a little more complicated than that one.
For example, in the past, the answer has always been such-and-such, within these tolerances
Multiple independently sourced
For example, an average derived from a group of experts
The conclusion is likely to be:
-a single number,
-a fixed strategy, or
-a single course of action.
Analytic – Deductive Enquiry
The Analytic – Deductive process share many difficulties with the inductive-consensual process.
In further, there is a belief that there is always one single answer – a number, or a truth – which can always be found if only we look hard enough.
They both share the fallacy that the definition of the problem itself is unproblematic, when in fact it is making this very definition:
-what question are we asking ?
-what question should we be asking ?
-which is the heart of the problem itself.
From Socrates through the British system of parliamentary democracy to adversarial judicial enquiry in the courts, the dialectic has been a mode of enquiry which probes deeply into issues and acts a practical decision making tool.
Rather then challenge the data, dialectic challenges the subjective assumptions, models and theories by which problems are defined and solutions postulated, and it is the debate itself that an objective solution, compromise or synthesis will be reached.
During the chat session you will be split into two groups, you will be asked to debate the issue of “the need (or not) for an independent, separate IS department in a business organization.”
Multiple Reality Enquiry
The key element in the multiple reality enquiry system is the understanding that the observer or analyst actively participates in the definition of the problem by placing the observed problem data against a theory or model which is personalized and unique to her or him and makes sense of the problem in these terms.
The observer and problem are not therefore, detached – but properties of the whole context problem domain.
The results of multiple reality enquiry is a range of representations of the problem and an equivalent range of solutions, which can be applied, synthesized or discarded.
The decision maker is informed on a board basis, and is thus better able to interpret the range of possible views and select a course of action. (Of course, this decision maker will also have her/his own unique theory and background and the decision will always be subjective to a certain extent.)
Concept of Risk in Enquiry
The two simple enquiry systems discussed previously appear to be low risk, in that they produce one single answer.
The complex enquiry system has the potential for multiple answers and therefore decisions based upon them seem more risky.
Unbounded Systems Thinking
The need for systems thinking is grounded in the understanding of problems as messes – uncultivated and apparently unrelated entities, rather like patches of weeds and wild flowers – each affecting the other and resulting in a whole which is incapable of the rigid definition and identification required by the enquiry methods .
These messes give rise to emergence – attributes which are functions of the whole, but are not apparent at an individual component level.
Messy problems demand a creative approach to their solution; during the next lecture we will consider systems thinking in a much greater depth.
The Multiple Perspective Concept
The technical perspective refers to analysis and agreement – the logical aspects of a problem. In a sense this is the single perspective from which the earlier enquiry systems approached things.
The multiple perspective concept adds two other perspectives:
The social or organizational perspective, which enquires from a structural viewpoint.
The personal perspective, which takes the individual view.
Unless all perspectives are employed, the outcome will be, inevitably, unstable. To paraphrase :
“technologies fail to understand how T solutions to T problems become the O issues next time around, managers fail to understand how O solutions to O issues become P problems, and so on.”
The need is to recognize interconnectedness in the systems with which we, as information professional, are concerned.
We need to develop our enquiry abilities appropriately to the whole rather than just to the component, taking account of mess and understanding and enquiring upon emergent issues.
(b) How Teleworking (working in a flexible manner away from the office) will impact organisations
Telework is a form of flexible working that has become high popular in many countries around the world. It is most successful when it is thought about as a management strategy that targets improved profit and productivity by supporting work away from the traditional office. It involves staff working at home, a day or more a week, using technology and better resource planning to replace the daily commute.
Explain the method of enquiry you will use to conduct your research, give reasons for your choice and any assumptions you will make.
Survey: remote working is motivational for workers
Managers say there are employee motivational benefits in remote working, but they still have fears about productivity, a lack of team bonding, and data security.
According to a survey of more than 1,100 managers commissioned by infrastructure firm SonicWALL, managers are becoming more comfortable with their staff working remotely, despite potential detrimental effects on the business.
The survey found that more than half of respondents believed that offering their employees the ability to work remotely is a competitive necessity or a motivating perk for employees.
More than a third of managers had employees that work out of the office more than 20% of the time. The chief reasons to allow such working were employee motivation (26%), cost of office space (15%), rising utility prices (14%), and traffic or weather conditions (14%).
Managers identified several concerns about remote working, with the top three being productivity, a lack of team building and data security.
When their remote employees do not immediately answer their home or mobile phones, managers show some lapse of faith. Nearly a quarter think their employees are running household errands or shuttling the kids around, and 9% believe they are being deliberately ignored.
a) Briefly describe the impact of Teleworking on employees, their work and social life.
Safety and Health for Teleworkers
Example of New Zealand Teleworkers
Telework New Zealand has released a guide to occupational safety and health for teleworkers. The guide identifies risks and problems that teleworkers working at home could face. It provides a work sheet to help teleworkers identify problem areas. The guide also provides considerable information on ways in which risks can be minimised and avoided.
The guide, designed for employers to distribute to teleworking staff, is only available from Telework New Zealand.
Telework is best understood as working from a distance. It involves employees working at home or in other locations for some of the time every week. Although the word ‘telework’ may be new to many, flexible work practices, mobile working, and work-life balance policies mean that many employees now fit the teleworker.
“Although working from home instead of commuting is becoming an increasingly popular option in New Zealand, there are some problems”, says Bevis England, Director of Telework New Zealand. “Employers are uncertain about the legal requirements of our occupational safety and health act as it applies to teleworkers.”
Under New Zealand legislation, employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees, “as far as is practicable”. This can be relatively complex for employees who are working ‘off-site’.
Employers who take their OSH responsibilities seriously will inspect the intended off-site work place and monitor how it is used. Some will supply all office furniture and equipment. But the most important action employer should take is to ensure that employees are aware of the potential risks and how to minimise them. This is why the OSH guide was prepared.
The written in layman’s language, covers a wide variety of potential risks and how to overcome them. It is based on extensive experience and consultation with a variety of professionals. The guide is designed for employers to distribute to their staff before telework starts. It is also designed to supplement the employer’s existing OSH guidelines.
“We have found that stress, caused by overwork, performance concerns, and inadequate time planning and management skills, can be a major cause of problems in the home office,” says England. We have looked at this issue in some detail within the guide and provide many suggestions and ideas that will be helpful for teleworkers.
“Employers can gain up to $300,000 per year, per 100 staff, through sound telework practices and we want to make it as easy as possible for employers to realise these benefits. That is why we are making this OSH guide available.”
Telework New Zealand can also provide a two-hour workshop for employees to support the guide.
Telework New Zealand has been promoting and implementing telework arrangements since 1989. The company works on both sides of the Tasman.
The problem with light rail is that, as public transport, it will suffer from the same problems existing public transport suffers from – not going where you want to go, when you want to go, and not allowing flexible usage throughout the day. Given that Auckland already has widely spread business centres (Henderson, Manukau, Albany, Tamaki, Penrose, Takapuna, etc.) cars will still be needed (in many users’ minds) for trips throughout the day. Cars will still be on the road every rush hour.
Telework is not a perfect or total solution – some of the arguments against public mass transit systems could apply to telework as well and telework will not be right for every individual or company, although the exceptions are a small minority. But the important point is that it is effectively free, has many other advantages aside from traffic congestion, and needs to be recognised for the potential it undoubtedly offers.
Telework does not necessarily involve the home or expensive technology. Nor does it entail being out of the traditional office all of the time — the US average is 1.57 days a week away from the traditional office.
To propose the expenditure of millions of dollars without first assessing the impact of telework is a potential waste of money. As telework becomes increasingly popular in the Auckland region, trip reduction could make severe inroads into the profit margins (and payback time) of any large capital project.
In further, to propose this investment on one possible solution to congestion without also proposing even a marginal investment in telework appears unreasonable, if not irresponsible. (The strategy presently only endorses a loosely worded form of telework.) Telework is a proven approach to reducing traffic congestion; it costs very little (comparatively) to implement; and it provides the only win-win solution, benefiting individuals, companies and the community at large. It deserves wider practical consideration than it is presently given.
People have busier and more complicated lives than ever before, and remote working offers a way for people to achieve a better work-life balance. Not having to travel from home means that parents and carers have fewer childcare worries and can spend more time together as a family.
The UK is one of the least regulated labour markets in the industrialised world having opted out of the European Union’s working time directive, a legislative act which imposes a 48-hour maximum working week on all members. Workers in the UK work some of the longest hours in Europe. Achieving a balance between work commitments and family life has never been more difficult. Initiatives like Changing Times, under aegis of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the national trade union umbrella organisation in the UK, and Work Wise, established by the IT Forum Foundation, offer employers and unions practical guidance to achieving a better work-life balance in the workplace. The 2007 Work Wise Week was a series of events demonstrating flexible working practices and culminated in a ‘work from home day’.
b) Summarise the emerging Teleworking technologies and the impact they might have on organisations.
In the 21st Century work has changed. Remote working or teleworking is an employment arrangement in which employees can complete their work from a location other than their office base, be it their home, a sub-office or even the local coffee shop. As Woody Leonhard puts it in the Underground Guide to Telecommuting, “Work is becoming something you do, not a place you go to.”
Modern employment law now offers more flexibility of working hours. From April 2003, all employees with children under 6 years old, or children under 18 with disabilities, have a legal right to ask to work flexibly. In April 2007 this legislation was extended to employees with responsibility for caring for spouses and partners; while in November 2007 the Prime Minister announced plans to extend these provisions to those parents with older children.
Remote working is not a new concept but various factors including technological advancements, the change in legislation mentioned above and the needs and wants of organisations and their employees have prompted a growth in more flexible ways of working. A Scottish Enterprise document on remote working claims that 80% of UK workers are now ‘information workers’ people who work with data and use a networked PC and telephone as their main tools. Information workers need no longer be tied to a traditional office nor traditional working hours.
Remote-working solutions once implemented by an organisation can support a broad range of operations, such as employees largely operating on-site but moving about, or even workers using a different set-up from the standard one; not just employees working from home. Such solutions have the potential to change significantly the way people work, and for the better; but there is a need for explicit guidance and planned support for those colleagues involved.
Task 3 a) Using consequence analysis techniques identify the likely impact of Teleworking on organisations. To answer this question you must use an effect/probability/action grid for 3-5 impacts of technology.
“The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts working the moment you get up in the morning, and does not stop until you get into the office.”
It is repeatedly reported that remote workers have a higher productivity . This may be for a number of different reasons. On the whole remote workers tend to be less stressed. Many avoid the daily commute to work (often cited by workers as the most stressful part of the day) and many achieve a better work-life balance. Having happier staff is in an organisation’s interests since it strengthens staff loyalty; the resultant drop in staff turnover reduces interruptions to projects and lateness of deliverables, not to mention the time and money lost to recruitment.
It is also true that there are actually fewer distractions at home than at work, aiding concentration. Those who work alone from home are likely to be in a quieter environment with no colleagues around to chat with, no company coffee breaks and no ‘unnecessary’ meetings. That is, unless they have young children; in which case, reliable, consistent childcare arrangements are indispensable.
It might also be the case that those who are sanctioned to work remotely by management are only the employees with an appropriate skill set such as punctuality and good time management and organisational skills.
Moreover, because remote workers are not actually physically in the workplace, and therefore ‘seen to be at work’, they often feel the need to prove that they are effective workers by their outputs. This may in time lead to an acute enthusiasm when replying to emails, answering the phone etc. that results in less breathers and shorter lunch breaks. How others perceive remote workers is discussed further in the section on challenges; but some might argue that remote workers are the hardest taskmasters.
In terms of staffing strategy in particular, remote working represents a major bonus to employers. Organisations can benefit as a whole by dint of who else can be employed thanks to the option of remote working. Using remote workers gives organisations access to skilled workers whom they might not so easily employ, people with mobility problems and staff who live out of commuting range and would be reluctant or unable to relocate. Equally, it might also allow the retention of skilled and experienced staff whose circumstances change and who may otherwise have had to resign. The saving in recruitment and training costs alone could be substantial, especially in niche industries.
Remote working allows more flexibility. Work can fit around individual timetables and irregular hours are more easily worked where one’s workspace is not limited to the traditional 9-5 office. Example, a remote worker might find it easier to finish a piece of work that needs to be completed by a deadline. Organisations have also found that it cuts down on absenteeism.
Flexibility also applies to the ability to be in different places yet ‘seem’ as if you are in the office. The Natural History Museum remote system mentioned allows staff ‘to move locations quickly and without disruption, increasing their availability and enabling them to work from any of the museum’s multiple sites, at home or while they are travelling.’ Hot-desking or using one desk shared between several people, is becoming an increasingly adopted solution in working space issues.
It is increasingly clear that current commuting trends are unsustainable and any traffic reduction is sure to be beneficial to the environment through lower CO2 emissions. Government environmental targets have also encouraged public sector organisations to consider implementing remote access systems, thereby allowing staff to work more flexibly. As a result local authorities or other public sector bodies are more likely to meet their own targets. In June 2007 the Transport Studies Unit, part of the Oxford University Centre for the Environment, carried out a study on The Costs of Transport on the Environment – The Role of Teleworking in Reducing Carbon Emissions. The study concluded that “The importance of teleworking to reduce energy use in transport for both the work- and business-related journeys is becoming more important.”
Other possible environmental improvements, such as saving energy, reducing paper use and better waste disposal, are discussed in the recent Ariadne article Saving Energy in the Workplace and can be applied to extent to home working.
Reduction of Overhead Costs
Many employers are finding it more appealing to have remote workers as they significantly reduce overheads. An organisation can save on space, heating and electricity costs. Some organisations, example, universities, have a growing number of people on-site: departments within want to expand but do not have the space; they can substantially benefit from people working off-site. Savings in this area can be channelled into improvements to other facilities. There are instances of people ‘co-working’, remote workers who get together and share office space.
b)Drawing on the findings from Task 2, provide a short summary explaining how Teleworking is likely to impact on IS planning, focusing on the initial stages of IS development.
Social impacts Research indicates that telework can give new opportunities to enhance the equality of opportunities for people with disabilities, who cannot get to the workplace every day (Gordon, 1999; Accard, 1997; What is the future of telework? 2001; ITAC, 2000), recuperating from temporary injuries or illness (Brimser and Bender, 1995) and for female workers who would network at all (Accard, 1997; What is the future of telework? 2001; ITAC, 2000).
ITAC (2000) states that telework can provide potential employment of underutilized segments of the workforce: retirees, workers in urban areas, reducing unemployment (Accart, J.P. 1997) among economically disadvantaged individuals (What is the future of telework? 2001): monks and nuns (Millar, 1996) and prisoners (who work for Best Western Hotels) telework (DiNicola, 1998).
Nilles (1996/97) and Di Nicola (1999b) go as far as to say that telework could improve the utilization of urban spaces which cause the present separation between dormitory areas and business areas while Gordon (1999) and Accart (1997) state that it can bring employment to people instead of squeezing them into small areas.
According to Gordon (1999) telework can increase regional development; revitalize rural communities (Nilles, 1995), geographically remote areas or areas from which manufacturing industries and farming have moved away (ITAC, 2000).
Many researchers consider telework a solution to environmental problems, traffic and transport(Nilles, 1985 and 1986/1987; Accart, 1997; Di Nicola, 1999b): it can reduce toxic gas emission and pollution ( ITAC, 2000; Di Nicola, 1999b), the use of limited natural resources (ITAC, 2000) and guarantee huge savings in petrol consumption (Accart,. 1997; Weiss,1992).
Gordon (1999), a telework guru, believes that “it would take an enormous amount of telework to make a difference” and the problems “go far beyond the daily commuting to work” :“telework can only help”.
As Mitchell (2002) has recently pointed out “in the UK, 14% of car commuters account for 50% of all car commuter travel. So if this 14% could be encouraged to telework for half of their work days, we would reduce car commuting by 25%”
Natural disasters, terrorism and special events
According to Weiss (1992) telework has a great potential for helping to cope with natural or man-made disasters and also with weather problems seriously affecting productivity (snow, hurricanes, earthquakes and energy crisis) (McGee, quoting Bernard, 2001). The US Congress is developing telework programs after the anthrax crisis (Keller, 2002) and the September 11th attacks were awake-up to find ways to quickly shift many employees to home offices (McGee, 2001). Against these opinions Siskos (2002) argues that “even collapsing skyscraper, anthrax-tainted mail and warnings about further terrorism didn’t raise the number of telecommuters, because of there cession”. Special events such the Olympic games in Atlanta gave rise to telework arrangements (Franket al., 1997).
Task 4 Discuss the ethical issues, such as failure consequence, professional codes of conduct and data accessibility for organisations using Teleworking hardware and software as part of their business strategy.
“Telework and the technology that supports it are neutral –they neither create job opportunities nor destroy them. What they do is to present opportunities – it’s up to us what we make of them”
According to Harrison (1998) the risk that isolated employees may be exploited in an environment where they can’t easily get support from co-workers or unions. One of the major hindrances to telework is the fact that “the more disconnected you are from your employer, the more vulnerable you are to layoff” (Siskos, 2002).Another main reason of concern is reported by ETO (2000b) stating that: “We were concerned to dispel the illusion that telework is an effective remedy for the problems of economically depressed regions, and the equally dangerous illusion that telework is all about the country cottage and roses-round-the-door lifestyle. Offshore telework is about shifting jobs away from your region, town or country”. Simon (1997) sharply points out that “outsourcing can be the first step to teleworking and is sometimes the reason for telework”. In most cases, according to Simon (1997), the legal framework is missing especially when teleworking involves international workforce.
Telework in information and library environment Information workers are individuals whose primary economic activity involves the creation, processing, manipulation or distribution of information (Accart, quoting US Department of Transportation Work, 1997) and telework increasingly becomes and accepted method of work for them all over the world (Hootsmans et al., 2001).According to Baker (2000) technological changes have modified librarian’s role and responsibilities, the type of service offered and in addition “have obviated the need for rigid work styles” even though “they do not predetermine outcomes” (Karsten and Korte, 2001).According to Sreenivasulu (2000) the role of traditional libraries is shifting towards digital activities(imaging technologies, markup language, multimedia indexing, user interface design) and in the virtual library “work is decentralized and telework the norm” (Wilson, 1995). Nilles (1996/97) points out that information related activities require frequent periods of isolation, sometimes interrupted to communicate with others, but there is not much need of face-to-face communication which is often considered undesirable.
From home-based work to telework (or e-work)
Notwithstanding the given definition of telework it is quite difficult to split “home-based work” and “telework” at least at the very beginning of this innovative form of work. Many experiences which share this borderline characteristic are however relevant for us: telework in fact relies mainly on ITCs but it is also an organizational issue. Home-based work in information environment, following the literature, has not become telework all of a sudden but it has grown side by side with ITCs development. Library home-based work, a flexible work arrangement, became through new technological means completely feasible and deliverable through ITCs. As Leysen and Pelzer (1996) state telecataloguing, the most widespread library activity from remote site, follows more than three decades of technological development. Though information environment shows a long tradition in this field it seems useless and also difficult to separate library and information telework experiences. Where does telework finish and where does e-work begin? These questions are strictly related to another question: what new task has a virtual library to undertake? In information society there are no limits to the expansion of institutional library activities: in this competitive world libraries have to change rapidly and take on new activities in order to survive.
There are also many challenges for organisations which increasingly employ remote workers. One of the most significant is a loss of corporate identity. Workers who are distributed may no longer feel part of a team or even part of an organization. This loss of cohesion can have a significant effect on employees and managers alike. Managers may have to learn to manage differently. Research carried out by Henley Management College found that the increase in flexible working practices has meant that to be effective, managers now need to trust their staff more and move away from the traditional controlling style of management.
There are also many specific technical requirements when supporting remote workers. Some are explored in the JISCInfoNet ‘Anytime, anywhere computing’ which offers solutions to the difficulties in delivering such a service at Higher Education institutions. Setting up a remote worker is relatively straight forward. Broadband is now cheaper than ever and connections can be made through an Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) or cable. With countless providers online, and a number of broadband provider comparison sites available, there should be a package to suit all individual needs. However, which broadband provider workers should use may present an issue. Organisations may have a preferred provider and may be paying, but home broadband is rarely going to be used solely for business purposes. Some organisations would use broadband with Web Virtual Private Network (VPN) to provide a secure connection between two or more locations via the Internet. Web VPN is a remote access security platform, which provides relatively simple and secure access to applications and information they require.
Despite the use of VPN the major technical issue for organisations using remote workers is security. Although remote workers may be no less vigilant than on-site colleagues, because their computer may be used for many more activities than just work, they are more exposed to unsafe applications and may end up being infected by viruses. Organisations need to make sure that their current security policy covers remote working. JANET, the UK’s education and research network, provides useful information about remote working security. The lack of an on-hand IT support team may also mean that machines are not maintained to the same standard as those in the office, unless the support team has included remote working workstations in its programme of support.
Loss of Face-to-face Contact
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
Remote workers often suffer feelings of isolation. Some feel that they miss out on informal organisational discussion and have a poorer understanding of office politics. Some feel that they are less valued than their on-site colleagues and more at risk from redundancy.
Remote workers do have to be able to motivate themselves to work independently and with less supervision. Some employees find this difficult and miss the direction and management they may have previously received from face-to-face contact.
Task 5 Present your findings in the form of a business report. The report should be presented professionally in terms of structure, grammar/spelling and presentation.
The convergence of new technologies and business – not simply employee preference to work at home — is driving a rapid growth in telework, according to a new report from the Center for Digital Culture.
Telework, defined as moving work activities to employees rather than requiring employees to commute to work, makes good business sense, say the authors of the report, because it can increase employee retention and reduce employer operating costs.
The number of U.S. teleworkers grew to 20 million in 1999, up from 4 million in 1990, and the rate of growth is rapidly accelerating, according to the Center for Digital Culture, an initiative of U S WEST, that researches the social, political and economic impacts of emerging telecommunications technologies.
Growth in telework programs is increasingly driven by specific business goals, not individual preferences or concerns about traffic and the environment, according to the 33-page report, “Telework Enters the Mainstream: New Technologies, Social and Business Dynamics Transforming the Workplace.”
“Telework is no longer a fad,” said Jim Miller, co-author of the report. “Telework is increasingly the result of hard-nosed business decisions. It is an efficient, effective alternative to traditional work arrangements.”
The report found that recent advances in computing and telecommunications technologies make telework more productive. The rapid growth of the Internet, development of high-speed, broadband Internet access (digital subscriber lines or DSL and cable modems) plus increased networking capabilities allow employees to work at home at computing speeds equal to or greater than they have at the office.
Telework allows employers to reduce office space costs, parking and other overhead expenses by as much as 30%. An employee working at home two days a week can save a company $12,000 annually, the study authors contend. Accounting firm Ernst & Young reduced real estate expenses by 7% in the first year of a telework program, the report said.
Telework also can reduce the ratio of managers to staff from one to four to one to 40, according to the report’s findings.
Allowing employees to work from home may reduce employee turnover — a preventable corporate expense. A 1997 survey found 29% of workers would change jobs if they could not work at home, the study authors noted.
The report also discusses challenges associated with telework, including:
Potential impact of U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations for work environments in the home;
E-literacy requirements and training employees in technical aspects of telework before making investments in technology; and
The willingness by managers to allow employees to work remotely or “out-of-sight.”
List of Reference
TELEWORKIN INFORMATION AND LIBRARY ENVIRONMENT:A LITERATURE REVIEW
Teleworking from Home, Nicola Harrison
‘The Underground Guide to Telecommuting”, Leonhard, Woody, 1995, Addison-Wesley
UKOLN Workshop for Remote Workers