Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, we often hear the term “teleworking”. We’re wondering how we should handle teleworking as it becomes an increasingly common working style.

In this article, we will consider the advantages and disadvantages, hurdles, and points to keep in mind when introducing teleworking.

The system of teleworking and the merits of introducing it prompted by the coronavirus pandemic

Since the beginning of 2000, new working styles such as Work From Home (WFH) and teleworking began to spread rapidly in Japan1. Against a backdrop of a decline in the Japanese working population, a shift towards nuclear families, lifestyle changes, and the spread of IT infrastructure, the effects of teleworking on business efficiency and productivity attracted attention.

In 2006, the First Abe Cabinet aimed to double the number of teleworkers by 2010, which attracted even more attention2. After that, thanks to policies and social trends such as work-life balance and working style reform, the experimental introduction of telework was carried out, limited to large companies. Now in 2020, the number of companies that have introduced teleworking as part of measures to prevent COVID-19 has increased rapidly.

*Teleworking = You work from anywhere, such as at home, in a cafe, or in a coworking space.

We’re afraid some of you who have been used to working in the office may not be able to imagine what will change through the introduction of teleworking. Therefore, let’s take a look at the advantages of teleworking, mainly from a corporate perspective.

1. Securing excellent human resources and reducing labor costs

Teleworking has the advantage of allowing employees to work flexibly according to their individual circumstances and lifestyles. Compared to the traditional working style, which requires you to be at a fixed place for a fixed time (offices, etc.), fewer restrictions make it possible for the company to employ various human resources. The ability to choose working styles according to individual circumstances and lifestyle is a great benefit for employees, and they can feel a sense of security.

For example, some employees have unavoidable circumstances such as taking care of a child or a bedridden family member. In that case, if the employees can only work on-site, they may be absent or late many times. Moreover, sometimes they might think getting a job is difficult.

If a telecommuting system is organized, there will be new possibilities, not only for people who have had to leave or change jobs due to taking care of a child or nursing a family member but for those who have given up looking for a job in the first place. In other words, you can reduce labor costs, including recruitment and employee training costs.

2. Reducing travel costs

Organizing a teleworking system has the advantage of reducing the travel costs of employees. Even if the cost for a round trip is only 500 yen every day, the annual cost will be 120,000 yen, and if you have 100 employees the total sum is 12 million yen which is quite expensive.

In addition to that, the physical and mental burden on employees who are forced to travel a long distance on crowded trains in urban areas is obviously significant. Many of them commute for more than an hour each way. Assuming that it is a round trip of 2 hours, they travel 40 hours a month (20 days), 480 hours a year.

3. Improving the skills of managers

With the introduction of teleworking, managers are expected to improve their skills in managing their staff.

If they aren’t adept at managing their staff, they will have a hard time with a teleworking system. This is because excellent employees in the same working space can read the atmosphere and usually even accept instructions that are not expressed in words. However, with teleworking, subordinates at home cannot understand instructions unless they are informed of the requirements, main points, and background in words.

Even if there are subordinates who are not able to report, contact, and consult appropriately, even in the same office space, managers can rectify the situation with frequent communication and advice for the subordinates, while observing their behaviors. However, with teleworking, it becomes difficult to do this.

In both cases, it’s a tense and challenging environment for managers, but on the other hand, it’s an environment where they can expect to improve their skills. So far, we have discussed the benefits of introducing teleworking mainly from a corporate perspective.

Small and medium-sized companies also want to organize their systems quickly, while in addition to the problem of cost, there are many cases where the transition doesn’t succeed because of the lack of normalization and standardization of business processes. In the next section, we will explain how the level of normalization and standardization of business processes significantly affects the cost-effectiveness in introducing teleworking.

The Key to the introduction of teleworking is business process reform

If you introduce teleworking, you want to get the most out of it while keeping deployment and operating costs as low as possible. The key to this is business process. The business process is a mechanism of doing business: the procedure may differ depending on the person in charge.

Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the success or failure of teleworking depends on how many business processes can be normalized and standardized before introduction. We will mention some of the bad cases where companies that introduce teleworking are likely to get stuck.

1. Information sharing and collaboration are not possible

If you are in the same working space you are able to communicate with each other, observing behavior. But when working from home it becomes difficult to do that. In order to effectively share information and collaborate while you are not in the same space, each member needs the awareness and skills to share information or collaborate appropriately and proactively.

Ideally, you can already develop this habit and awareness from the time you are in the same working space, and the skills of each member are developed. Hardware mechanisms are also effective to cover the framework that facilitates information sharing. There are various useful communication tools including business chat and groupware, as well as various functions.

2. Non-normalized tasks stagnate

We hear that even though normalized tasks flow in the same way as office work, non-normalized tasks don’t. The main reason is that each person proceeds with the tasks individually, so it is difficult for other employees to see or understand the progress. In other words, it is caused by undetermined and a lack of visualization of the business processes.

Although business process reform is said to improve productivity, its true value is tested when you work in a new environment: teleworking. It is difficult to define all business processes in advance, but having an awareness of normalization and standardization as much as possible is really important.

It is also effective to supplement the system to normalize and standardize business processes with hardware. As there are various business tools to improve business processes, we recommend you consider them from the viewpoint of long-term cost-effectiveness.

Organizing a teleworking system is a chance to improve productivity

We have discussed the merits, demerits, and hurdles of teleworking in this article. The points can be summarized as follows:

  • Introducing teleworking has many advantages.
  • Only changing the working place is difficult to make the teleworking system work well.
  • Managers should take the initiative in developing the awareness of employees and their skills.
  • Normalization and standardization of business processes should be done in advance.

We hope you can understand the points above. Organizing the teleworking system is costly, and there are hurdles to overcome before it can operate effectively. Therefore you have to plan to make the entire business process effective rather than just to make the short-term benefits. That will lead to improving the level of your employees, and it will be an opportunity for the entire company to improve productivity.

Questetra BPM Suite will help you introduce Teleworking

Questetra BPM Suite is a BPM tool where you can draw a diagram of the current business process, share information, and collaborate with other departments. Therefore, business processes can be visualized and the status of each process is reflected graphically in real-time.

Questetra BPM Suite is also a cloud service, so it can support teleworking. As a first step to introducing teleworking, we recommend you try the free trial version.

References

  1. “Telework Trends”– NTT Technical Review
  2. “Priority policy Program 2006” (IT Strategic Headquarters)
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