Why Can’t Managers Trust Their Employees to Telework?

11 Jun. 2012 | Comments (0)

In our last blog, The Rise of the Teleworker: End of Corporate Office Space?, we presented the results of new research studies, which demonstrated the rise of the teleworker, as teleworking rates have raised to over two percent nationwide. This situation has allowed for increased flexibility, and many teleworkers cite such advantages as improved performance and better productivity with fewer distractions – just to name a few.

However, despite these reported benefits, managerial “buy-in” and acceptance remains one of the significant barriers to successful telework implementation. Some research shows, in particular, older managers on average express more reluctance toward teleworking compared to younger managers.[1]  Managers struggle to understand how to make telecommuting arrangements effective and beneficial to both the team and the employee.  Additionally, managers may not trust their employees enough to allow them to undertake teleworking arrangements.[2]  Employees may also be concerned with their manager’s mentality of “out of sight, out of mind.” This may lead to questionable job security and/or impeded career advancement. These issues can result in lower job satisfaction and employee engagement.

To embrace telework, managers will require a dramatic mental shift of trusting employees from a very different perspective. Without the ability to see an employee every day, managers have to feel comfortable that work is getting done. Trust can be built and strengthen by having regular interaction points and developing well-defined and measureable outcomes.

Companies cannot assume managers will intuitively know how to manage teleworkers on their teams. Guidance, training, and support should be offered to aid managers in understanding the value and benefits of teleworking. Providing managers with successful teleworking checklists and specific recommended techniques can ease implementation. HR may need to check in with the manager and employee after a period of time to ensure expectations are being met.

The changing nature of work is occurring…companies that are not seriously considering a telework initiative to save money and increase employee engagement may be risking a competitive advantage.   

What can we do as talent management professionals to support our managers?  How can we help our employees learn how to telework effectively, and engage their managers to create trust?  What best practices have you seen to support telework initiatives?

For further information, see the new report, “The Incredible Disappearing Office: Making Telework Work."

A webcast on the topic featuring, among others, the CEO of The Conference Board, Jon Spector, will take place on 07 June, 11:00 AM EST.

Register now for this webcast.

View our complete listing of Talent Management, Strategic HR, and Employee Engagement blogs.

[1] Erling Rasmussen and Gareth Corbett, “Why Isn’t Teleworking Working?” New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2008, pp. 20–32.

[2] Stan Beer, “Telework not trusted,” Sydney Morning Herald, September 14, 2004, accessed December 1, 2011, (www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/09/13/1094927496755.html?from=storyrhs).

  • About the Author: Amy Lui Abel, Ph.D.

    Amy Lui  Abel, Ph.D. Amy Lui Abel is Managing Director of Human Capital at The Conference Board. She leads research efforts focusing on human capital analytics, leadership development, labor markets, strategic workforce p…

    Full Bio | More from Amy Lui Abel, Ph.D.

  • About the Author: Gad Levanon, Ph.D.

    Gad Levanon, Ph.D. Gad Levanon is director of macroeconomic research at The Conference Board, where he also leads the labor markets program. He also serves on The Demand Institute™ leadership team. Levanon create…

    Full Bio | More from Gad Levanon, Ph.D.

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