Teleworking: obvious for the new generation of employees

Published on 16/03/2020 in Inspire

Teleworking: obvious for the new generation of employees

Giving as many employees as possible the chance to work from home has been Proximus policy for a long time now. Ilse Diependaele, HR Manager SHS, and Sandrine Stilment, HR Specialist SHS, on the development of teleworking.

The terms 'teleworking’ and 'working from home’ are often used interchangeably. Wrongly, it would appear?

Ilse Diependaele, HR Manager SHS: “That’s right, in the sense that teleworking is broader than working from home. Whenever people work away from their usual office, regardless of what place they work from, that is teleworking. But working from home should be interpreted literally: staff work in their own homes.

If we look at our own specific situation, we see that some people prefer to work in one of our satellite offices. Everyone is free to interpret this as they wish. Our first pilot project on working from home is about seven years old, but our history of teleworking via the satellite offices is considerably older.”

How can you support teleworking and working from home?

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Do you have a picture of how many people actually telework?

Sandrine Stilment, HR Specialist SHS: “One in three Belgians are allowed to work from home, but another study states only 1 in 5 Belgians have permission. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle (laughs).

At Proximus, we already adopt a policy of encouraging teleworking. Not every job is suitable, but those who are eligible (about 80%) can telework for a maximum of 40% of their working hours, which in practical terms means two days for someone who works full time. Regardless of whether this is from home or in one of the satellite offices.

In practice, 67% of our total population occasionally works from home. The average amount of time people spend working at home is 1.16 days a week. Which means that those who take up the teleworking option actually use about half the permitted time.”

Flexible interpretation

What feedback do you get from staff themselves about this teleworking policy?

Ilse Diependaele: “Usually very positive, which is not surprising. When we ask colleagues about the job-related points or problems that they think are important, we always get two answers: mobility and work/life balance. And this is precisely where teleworking can create added value. But for us as a company, too, it has a big advantage: teleworking lets us give concrete form to the green message we convey. Less travelling means a lower footprint, so it’s a win-win.”

Sandrine Stilment: “One important point that increases this satisfaction is our flexible approach. People don’t have to choose for one day’s teleworking or one day at the office. They can organize it per half day, or even on the basis of certain hours. It is not uncommon to see someone arrive at 10.00 am after having worked a couple of hours at home, simply to avoid being stuck in traffic.”

Teleworking creates real added value for staff in terms of mobility and work/life balance.

Ilse Diependaele, HR Manager SHS

Concluding an agreement in principle

Is there another side to this coin?

Ilse Diependaele: “There are very few minus points. Some people miss the interaction with colleagues and sometimes experience it as a rather lonely activity, certainly working from home. For them, the satellite offices are a possible alternative. Sometimes you hear that teleworking affects the team spirit. As everyone interprets it in their own way, the times when the entire team is present are limited. A possible solution is to communicate clearly when the team needs to be all present and accounted for. But when we look at the overall picture, we see that the plus points are significantly greater.”

One argument that you hear is that teleworking opens the door to abuse. Fact or fiction?

Sandrine Stilment: “In our experience, that problem doesn’t arise, or hardly ever, which – I believe – is thanks to our approach. Those who are interested have to request an agreement in principle. The question is looked into and then clear arrangements are made about everything. These might cover the days chosen, the times when staff can be reached and so on. It can be refused, but that’s exceptional. For example, this could be the case when on-the-job learning is of great importance, like when someone new arrives. In cases like these, attendance at the office is invaluable.”

Successful teleworking and in particular working from home is based on a relationship of trust and good arrangements between employer and employee.

Sandrine Stilment, HR Specialist SHS

5 ways to support teleworking and working from home

  1. Install a VPN connection (Virtual Private Network) so that mobile staff have secure and transparent access from a distance to the local company network.
  2. Work with the most recent version of Office 365 all the time, everywhere Move your familiar PC environment to the cloud, so that your staff have access to documents, applications and contacts wherever they are.
  3. Enable your staff to work together as well as possible via Unified Communication. They are in contact with one another through instant messaging, presence indicators, audio, video and web conferencing. Provide a connection with your telephone exchange functions as well.
  4. Provide Skype for Business - it fits in perfectly with Office 365 - and offer headsets that you can also connect to a smartphone.
  5. Make sure that your company can be reached anytime, anywhere, with an IP telephone exchange, regardless of the type of data connection (internet or Explore) or device.

Software integration

You’ve mentioned the satellite offices that you make available a few times. How are they used in practice?

Sandrine Stilment: “They are strategically located and can always be reached by train. A place can be booked using a separate tool. These offices increasingly have a flexible layout. That way, you don’t fix a specific place but a certain space, that you choose when you arrive. Of course, use is rigorously followed up. After all, it’s a cost for the company that can be optimized by aligning supply and demand.”

What do you see as the future of teleworking?

Ilse Diependaele: “I’m not really expecting all that many changes at companies that are already on board. Ourselves included. Because at some point you come up against certain limits. Not every job is suitable for teleworking, just as not every employee is interested. But we continue to work on it, leading to the integration of systems and software so that working from home is an option in more cases.

Where I do see things moving forward is in the number of companies or organizations that take this step. A whole new generation is coming onto the labor market. For them, teleworking goes without saying. Whether or not they are given this opportunity is also a factor that will play a role in the way they want to shape their career. If you want to attract them, you have to embrace this approach.”

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