Term Paper: Why Teleworking Works for Today's Workforce

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Teleworking

Telecommuting's emergence as a reciprocal strategy for retaining valuable workers while reducing the costs of operating an enterprise is yielding an entirely set of anticipated benefits for businesses, and creating entirely unforeseen effects on employees, their social networks, and relationships with peers and superiors. Baby Boomers, the foundation of the nations' largest demographic trend in its history, are now beginning to retire, leaving many highly skilled jobs open. The rate of baby Boomer retirement has in some industries been faster than the graduation rate of professionals to take their place. This dynamic has led to a shortage of skilled workers in many industries. The challenge of retaining these workers has led to a generation of employees who have been showered with perks, programs, and incentives to stay in jobs not easily filled. Telecommuting in certain industries is seen as the ultimate perk; the chance to work from home while having a job that also has value within a longer-term career. Telecommuting in many industries including Information Technologies (it) professions is used as a symbol of giving employees trust and freedom for their skills and efforts; employers look at it as a strategy of reciprocal trust and freedom for exceptional performance the willingness to go the extra mile when needed. In a sense offering telecommuting to those employees that have the most in-demand jobs may also paradoxically create isolation, a sense of lacking support from key resources in corporate, and the development of entirely new sources of stress.

Introduction

The intent of this paper is to evaluate a series of seven hypotheses that specifically focus on the implications of teleworkers' Internet use levels; the established role of the Internet has a contributory, not cannibalistic media platform relative to television and newspaper; the assumption that Internet usage is greater for men vs. women; an evaluation of the demographics of Internet usage by gender, age, income, and position in their organizations; and the assumption that a teleworkers' Internet usage is proportional to their employment status. In addition, the hypothesis that amount of a teleworkers' Internet usage is directly influenced by the density of their job tasks will also be evaluated. Lastly, the hypothesis that the richness of an employee's home computational infrastructure has a significant influence on the amount of time spends on the Internet. This last point is specifically addressing the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) by organizations to create a secured connection to their teleworkers over broadband communications lines.

In addition to all the above hypotheses, the dynamics of how teleworkers trade off the initial appeal of working from home needs to be balanced with sufficient interaction and socialization with others in the work groups to fulfill affiliation, achievement, and social needs. This specific area of the paper concentrates on the work/life balance achieved by teleworkers, including the measurement of isolation behaviors (DV) as a result of Internet usage in the home. The contributory factors of employment status and job density will specifically be tested through statistical analysis based on the results of the primary research completed.

From the studies completed of telecommuters' demographics, a polarity is beginning to emerge of remote workers who are members of this trend. Of the 20.7 million employees worked at home at least one day of the cited year according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2005), the challenge of demographic research is to discover through research the demographic segments of the most frequent telecommuters. While the definition of a telecommuter demographic model or taxonomy has not been specifically defined in previous research, there are dozens of studies that attempt to define telecommuters demographically. Bailey and Kurland (2002), and other researchers have been quick to define the traditional demographic segmentation criteria to telecommuters while Ford and Butts (1991) have proposed from their research that the polarity of telecommuting demographics are comprised of professional jobs requiring highly unique skills and insights on the high end, and routine, high quantity tasks that require little training or expertise on the low-end. It is the intent of this paper to generate new insights into the dominance of genders as it relates to telecommuting, with the hypothesis that men spend more time on the Internet while fulfilling their job responsibilities than women. In addition, this paper will concentrate on the 31-40 age groups' demographic, specifically evaluating their use of the Internet in the context of their telecommuting jobs. What is emerging from the literature review is that the higher-end professional positions are dominated by male telecommuters, and the lower-end, clerical jobs are dominated by women telecommuters. This paper will look to further validate these previous research findings discussed in this literature review.

Ford and Butts (1991) has defined these two segments of telecommuters as the higher-end professional telecommuting jobs, and the lower paying clerical jobs as follows. The researchers first define higher paying telecommuting jobs by their nature require intensive thought, efforts marked by a high level of initiative, and collaboration with others in their workgroups.

This first group of telecommuters is typically in highly unique jobs including computer programmers, engineers, scientists, technical writers, or field sales persons. The researchers define the second demographic segment as those telecommuters who perform routine, highly replicated tasks that require little formal training or expertise. This specific demographic group primarily complete data entry, word processing, telemarketing, and basic accounting tasks that are easily measured and evaluated. The influence of outsourcing and home-sourcing of repetitive processes and tasks has yet to be quantified as part of this segment, yet researchers agree it is a significant influence on this demographic. Christensen (1992) defines the high end of the telecommuting demographic as being comprised of 88% of all telecommuters, with the remaining 12% is administrative, call center, clerical, and support workers who complete tasks both for their own companies and those who have outsourced work to their employers. This 12% figure is expected to increase as a result of greater acceptance of outsourcing of routine, highly proceduralized tasks that can be easily monitored grows. Further demographic research by Olzewski and Mokhtarian (1994) have defined the majority of telecommuters being male (65%) in these high-end telecommuting jobs which is also consistent with the findings from Luukinen (1996), who in a Finnish study found that telecommuters tend to be predominantly be independent professional men and women who are highly educated. On the issue of gender, Christensen (1992) has shown that the 12% of clerical jobs are predominately staffed by women, and is the fastest growing area of telecommuting today.

Telecommuting's initial popularity and enthusiastic support continues to meet with greater skepticism however. Determinants of teleworker employee satisfaction have yet to be conclusively defined, their interrelationships quantified, and the effects of high Internet use required to complete jobs that have a high density of job tasks fully explored. The correlation of the aspects of job density, employment status, work/life balance and overall satisfaction with teleworking needs further research, and will be specifically addressed in the primary research completed in this paper.

Clearly what is needed is a model that can first identify then validate the interrelationships of the variables being measured in this papers' primary research effort. Further, the implications of all measured attributes on teleworker satisfaction and the ability to attain work/life balance, an explicit benefit of teleworking, needs further exploration and validation as well. It is an objective of this paper to illustrate through the use of research and thorough analysis the causality of factors that exemplify telecommuting effectiveness by demographic group and also examine the factors that lead to work/life balance in addition to worker satisfaction while employed in a teleworking arrangement. This paper looks to quantify individual differences between demographics variables (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, and tenure) and job characteristics (autonomy, flexibility, satisfaction with feedback). In addition to these factors, there is the implicit level of trust that pervades both the informal social networks that are composed of a teleworkers'; co-workers and peers, in addition to the level of trust between a telecommuter and their managers and the broader company formal organization structure. In addition to these two relationships, the telecommuters' level of interaction with or avoidance of family and friends also needs to be evaluated as part of this research effort, specifically focusing on the ability or inability to keep work and life in balance as a result.

In addition to the demographics and job characteristics variables, the role of trust within social networks and within formal organizational structures needs further research throughout the entire field of telecommuting. Herzberg's definition of a two-factor theory in conjunction with researchers Mausner and Snyderman (1959) seeks to differentiate factors that lead to positive vs. negative attitudes about one's job (Pinder, 1998) and sets the foundation for the role of trust between a teleworkers' peer or referent group and also between a teleworker and their managers. The essential aspects of Herzberg's models' ability to accurately predict how specific factors will either enhance or detract from overall satisfaction also is defined and later proven in subsequent research (Herzberg,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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