Effective Introduction and Adoption of Remote Working in a Governmental Department

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 20
Words: 5638
Reading time:
19 min
Study level: PhD

Introduction

Background

Globalization and rapid evolution of information technology have immense impacts on organizations and governments because they transform working practices. Remote working is one of the effects of globalization and rapid development of informatics in the modern society (Rockmann & Pratt 2015). Remote working requires an enabling environment, which has required infrastructure and human resources. Analysis of organizations, which have adopted remote working together with its managers and employees, shows that they have important attributes that make them stand out. Organizations with remote workers have powerful computers, secure internet networks, and updated software, which promote the efficient performance of tasks and activities (Darvish & Shirsavar 2013). As remote workers need close monitoring and supervision, managers employ effective communication skills, create empowering relationships, and build an organizational culture that encourages collaboration. Bloom et al. (2015) note that employees that keep abreast with technological advancements are adaptable, organized, techno-savvy, flexible, resilient, and influential in their workplaces. Evidently, technology is a major driver of remote working practices in organizations and government departments.

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Changing needs of employers and employees support the transformation of the traditional working practices to the modern working practices, which are in tandem with globalization and technological advancements. According to Al-Shathry (2012), employees require flexible and satisfying work while employers require higher performance and lower operating costs. In this view, remote working is a practice that satisfies the needs of both employees and employers in different industries. According to an experiment performed on 16,000 employees of NASDAQ, remote working improved performance, enhanced satisfaction, and reduced the attrition rates of employees by 50% (Bloom et al. 2015). In examining the case of Aetna, Bell (2015) states that companies prefer the practice of remote working because it reduces operating costs, attracts and retain employees, and boosts employee performance. Therefore, employers and employees in the modern society enter into contracts that allow remote working practices for mutual benefits.

In the modern world, remote working is growing tremendously because employees and employers have realized its benefits. Statistics shows that remote workers have increased by over 60% in the past decade as employers have given over 12.4 million Americans opportunities to work from home at least one day in a month and other 430 thousand Americans are entrepreneurs who work remotely on various websites (Al-Shathry 2012). Such statistics indicate that remote working is gaining significance and attention in modern organizations, which have adopted and embraced technological advancements.

Despite its benefits among organizations and employees, remote working has some challenges and risks. Al-Shathry (2012) explains that the challenges of remote working relate to the creation of organizational culture, tracking and monitoring of remote workers, performance assessment, and security threats. Organizations that have effectively managed to overcome these challenges have successfully adopted and implemented remote working programs in their working practices. Given that remote workers operate in isolated workstations of their choice, they experience loneliness and tend to be indiscipline in their work (Bloom et al. 2015). Essentially, remote workers are lonely because they do not interact with co-workers, clients, and managers the way conventional workers do. Orhan (2014) notes that lack of effective collaboration and teamwork among remote workers is a challenge in remote working programs. Restructuring of organizations is critical to prevent virtual workstations from reducing collaboration and teamwork. Therefore, organizations and government departments should be aware of these challenges so that they can introduce and adopt remote working programs successfully in their work practices.

Research Problem

Although remote working has immense benefits, it has numerous challenges and risks, which vary according to the manner of introducing and adopting it in an organization. As a new practice of work, companies usually encounter challenges related to the creation of a culture that is not only receptive but also supportive of remote working. Moreover, organizations experience challenges of monitoring, tracking employees, and assessing their performance when they work as remote workers, especially if the practice of remote working is informal and poorly implemented (Bell, 2012). In this view, organizations without elaborate remote working programs are prone to fail for they do not have the capacity to manage and monitor the performance of employees in their virtual workplaces. Bays et al. (2015) note that creation of virtual workstations for remote workers increases the vulnerability of organizations to hacking and other security threats. Hence, organizations with remote working programs have higher risks of security threats than organizations with conventional working programs.

Remote workers also encounter numerous challenges in coping with the new mode of working practice because they are used to the conventional working practices, which allow them to interact with the management and colleagues at social and professional levels. Fundamentally, remote workers experience a sense of social isolation and laxity (Bloom et al. 2015). Social isolation emanates from working alone without interacting with colleagues and clients whereas laxity occurs due to lack of direct supervision and answerability. As a case in point, the introduction and the adoption of remote working in Yahoo! had noble intentions of improving employee performance and satisfaction, but it failed because it weakened collaboration among virtual teams created (Orhan 2014). The case of Yahoo! reminds managements that the introduction and the adoption of remote working programs require consideration of collaboration as a key pillar of employee performance. The existence of these challenges and risks implies that organizations need to be meticulous and systematic in introducing and adopting the practice of remote working. As a new working practice in most organizations, managements have limited information regarding the introduction, adoption, and implementation of remote working programs in an effective manner to overcome stated challenges.

Research Questions

  1. What are infrastructural requirements of setting remote working programs in a government department?
  2. What is the nature of skills that employees require to qualify as effective remote workers of a government department?
  3. What are the benefits of introducing and adopting the remote working practice in a government department?
  4. What are the challenges that a governmental department encounters in introducing and adopting remote working practice?
  5. How can a governmental department manage and overcome challenges encountered in the introduction and adoption of remote working practice?

Literature Review

Remote Working

In the recent years, the work pattern rapidly changed in the world. The traditional working environment is gradually being replaced by a more comfortable, productive, and flexible working arrangements. Technological advancements significantly influence the gradual change for they stimulate rapid globalization and shrink the line between home and workplace (Al-Shathry 2012; Orhan 2014; Deshwal 2015). The use of technological innovation of web services and high technological devices such as laptops, smartphones, and broadband connections have changed the practice of office work and contributed to the development of virtual workstations. Remote working allows employees to have flexible working schedules, which accommodate working outside the office framework in a variety of locations and time. High-speed internet connectivity and continued improvements in the capacity of technological devices has enhanced communication and monitoring of remote workers, hence, stimulating introduction and adoption of remote working in organizations.

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The adoption of flexible working arrangements by organizations has greatly reduced the cost of setting up extensive office premises to accommodate many employees. Instead, organizations set up secure virtual networks that enable remote workers to access company’s data in their remote workstations. Various studies have found that remote working offers flexible working arrangements, promotes employee work dedication, improves commitment, enhances productivity, and boosts work-life balance, leading to overall improvement of organizational performance at a reduced cost (Shagvaliyeva & Yazdanifard 2014; Bloom et al. 2015; Subramaniam, Overton, & Maniam 2015; Al-Kasasbeh 2016). An exploratory study conducted by Deshwal (2015) on 300 employees from multinational corporations in Delhi India showed that organizations with flexible working arrangements effectively retain employees with high-quality life and experience improved performance. Therefore, the existence of the remote working program in a particular organization strongly associates with positive outcomes among employees.

In this view, remote working alters organization’s business focus of making tangible achievements and boosting staff performance. The approach of remote working has significant benefits to both organizations and employees. According to a study conducted on finance executives from six functional units of finance in Penang, Malaysia, the adoption of remote working by organizations showed a positive influence on work-life balance and improved employee commitment to work (Choo, Desa & Asaari 2016). Additionally, an online survey conducted on Finnish employees to examine work-family integration and boundary management showed that employees with the ability to integrate family and work experience improved work-life balance (Moazami-Goodarzi et al. 2015). Improved employee work-life balance and work satisfaction has a considerable influence on organizational performance. Remote working improves employee satisfaction, which in turn has a positive impact on individual commitment and dedication, leading to overall organizational performance (Shagvaliyeva & Yazdanifard 2014). Thus, organizations are increasingly adopting remote working to suit both organizations strategic requirements and objectives of improving performance by creating favorable work requirements that support convenience, individually managed working hours, and improvement of work-life balance.

However, other studies have indicated contradictory findings on the contribution of remote working on employee life and organizational performance. In a study conducted among 1,005 Dutch employees with an average of 20 working hours per week using web-based questionnaire, the results showed that interruptions in remote work designs lead to work-life conflicts among remote workers (Hoeven & Zoonen 2015). According to Eddleston and Mulki (2015), remote workers experience a high level of work intrusion to individual family life due to the flexible working arrangements, resulting in work-life conflicts. In essence, despite few negative implications, remote working practice is essential in improving employee work-life balance and overall organizational performance.

Benefits of Remote Working

Remote working gives employees an opportunity to utilize flexible working conditions to accomplish work and non-work responsibilities leading to high job satisfaction. Flexibility enables employees to work in an environment and time that best suits their personal and comfortable lifestyle. A survey conducted by Wheatley (2016) using British household survey revealed that flexible working arrangements have a positive influence on the overall household responsibility among men. Additionally, flexible arrangements increase employee sense of control and responsibility of work-life balance, and thus, increasing organizational loyalty and overall performance (Al-Shathry 2012). Therefore, remote working provides employees with the opportunity to balance work and personal life arrangements. Thus, the flexibility approach increases employee motivation leading to enhanced organizational commitment and dedication.

Remote working enhances organizational shift to the virtual working environment, which necessitates a focus on employee performance, and thus, encourages remote workers to work more productively. Additionally, the network-based structure is essential in maintaining competitiveness amongst remote workers. Previous studies show that remote working boosts employee work-life balance and work satisfaction, resulting in greater employee performance and organizational profitability (Shagvaliyeva & Yazdanifard 2014; Setia & Shah 2015; Choo, Desa & Asaari 2016). In essence, employees value the benefit of remote working and reciprocate with commitment and obligation to improve performance. Thus, organizations with remote workers tend to have better performance than organizations that stick to conventional working practices.

Remote working reduces both employee and organizations’ operating costs. Remote working enables employees to adopt a flexible work schedule that limits movement and reduces commuting expenses. According to an empirical experiment performed among 16,000 employees of a Chinese travel agency, remote working reduces employee daily expenses and organization’s operational costs (Bloom et al. 2015). In essence, remote working reduces organizational costs of establishing office premises and recruitment and training of employees due to the reduction in turnover rate.

Flexible working arrangements improve staff satisfaction. In this view, it enhances organization’s competitive advantage, which attracts employees with high competence and self-discipline. Some studies show that remote working provides employees with the autonomy of work responsibility and promotes employee retention in circumstances where employees wish to relocate or change their working environment (Bloom et al. 2015; Deshwal 2015). According to a quantitative study conducted using a purposive sampling technique of fourteen organizations in Malaysia, flexible working arrangement promotes retention of female employees who experience difficulties in balancing work and family life (Subramaniam, Overton & Maniam 2015). Therefore, remote working augments staff satisfaction and subsequently has a positive influence on retention decision, resulting in an organizational benefit of reduced staff turnover.

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Challenges of Remote Working

Remote working arrangements face the risk of frequent and high exposure of sensitive information to outsiders. The frequent use and access of organizations’ data outside office through third party networks using personal devices and software increase the chances of hacking. The shift of working culture due to the adoption and the use of information technology leads to increased risk of security threats (Hartley 2015). Remote working requires the use of passwords and organizations’ network outside office premises, which weaken tight security measures. Thus, remote working increases organizations’ exposure to risks such as hacking, theft of information, and loss of data.

Remote working reduces face -to-face contact, which is essential in understanding employees’ nonverbal cues. In remote working practice, it is hard to supervise employees’ personal developments and challenges, which are integral in assessing and monitoring overall performance. Remote working practice promotes the use of information technologies in communication making it hard to monitor the right indicators to track and guide remote workers (Bell 2012). So, organizations face the challenge of out-of-hand employee supervision, which leads to unproductive remote workers and decreased organizational performance. Thus, the management challenge is costly to organizations if not managed well using advanced performance monitoring software.

Additionally, remote working alienates employees from a friendly social environment of the office. A previous study conducted among employees of Ctrip showed that the non-office approach creates lonelier work environments for employees than the office environment because of reduced time for social interaction, which is essential in enhancing motivation and career growth (Bloom et al. 2015). In this view, remote working reduces the benefits of social interaction that promotes the exchange of ideas and experiences amongst employees. Moreover, alienation of employees limits employee exposure to opportunities, resulting in limited career growth (Bell 2012). Thus, remote working denies employees opportunities for career growth and development.

Family life is an essential factor in every employee’s life. From their extensive survey done to determine the work-family relationship among 1410 participants, 1139 members of the university staff and 271 nurse respondents, Moazami-Goodarzi et al. (2015) found out that employees in the segmented profile of work and family faced a high work-family conflict. Additionally, in their qualitative study, which examined remote workers, work, and family boundary management, Eddleston and Mulki (2015) established that remote working practice embeds social environment into professional life and permits the development of uncontrolled intrusion of work into family time. Therefore, remote working practice deprives remote workers of their ample family life leading to a strong work-family conflict.

The success and productivity of an organization depend on employee work commitment and dedication. In remote work practices, the remote worker’s dedication and commitment entirely depend on individual discipline. The challenge of adopting remote working practice is in the employee discipline to perform and collaborate without constant and immediate supervision (Al-Shathry 2012). Thus, the flexibility of remote work practice places a large part of work monitoring and supervision on the hands of remote workers. The freedom for personal supervision can result in employee’s indiscipline attitude and laxity, which considerably affects employee and overall organizational performance.

Adoption and Implementation

To enhance remote working, organizations must utilize the right steps in introducing and adopting flexible working arrangements. The significant requirements include utilization of advanced information technology and the business objectives to cover a wide geographical area while maintaining cost. In their study on existing framework for remote work adoption, Errichiello and Pianese (2016) found out that organizations have an obligation to create flexible working arrangements for employees by facilitating integration process to avoid possible and associated challenges of work-life conflict. Therefore, organizations must develop strategies for successful adoption and implementation of remote working.

The introduction and the adoption of remote working practice is a stepwise process that involves the formulation of organizational objective, harmonization of both employees and organization, and management of the adoption process. Organizations’ resources and employees’ needs in a given work environment determine the adoption and implementation of remote working (Errichiello & Pianese 2016). Thus, the adoption and the implementation is a multifaceted process that considers the mutual integration of the needs and potential of the organization, employees, and the environment. The process involves recruitment of qualified employee, adoption of advanced information technology within organizations, strategic planning on measurements, and real-time monitoring of employees.

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Implementation process involves the gradual integration of remote working into organizational culture. According to a study of remote workers conducted among employees of Aetna, Bell (2012) found out that organizations implement remote working practice through enhancement of cultural shift, incorporation of flexible working arrangements, and transformation of organizational employment practices. The process of implementation thus requires governmental organizations to adopt remote working practices as part of employment culture to give freedom to employees to exercise flexible working arrangements.

Research Framework

Research Framework

Summary

Thus, the framework of this literature highlights the fundamentals of remote working, which involve flexible working arrangements and utilization of the advanced information technology in achieving organizations’ objectives. Remote working practice benefits both remote workers and their respective organizations. The benefits to remote workers include improved work satisfaction and enhanced work-life balance that result in improved quality of life. Organizational benefits associated with remote working from previous studies indicate improved overall organization performance and profitability as a result of high employee satisfaction level and commitment to organizational values. Additionally, reduced operation costs due to reduced office space and employee turnover is a benefit resulting from the adoption of the remote working practice.

However, some studies have shown that remote working has several challenges that included security threats and poor staff supervision that may result in reduced organizational performance. Moreover, remote working reduces the benefits of employee office interaction and significantly affects collaboration and information sharing substantial in career development and performance improvement. Remote working also associates with work intrusion in individual family and social life. In this view, flexible working arrangements may lead to high work-family conflict and negative impact on work-life balance. Therefore, given that benefits associated with remote working outweigh the challenges, governments ought to set policies and regulations to facilitate effective adoption of remote working in all government organizations to ensure improved employee wellbeing and quality of life, and overall organizational performance.

Qualitative Research Methods

Overview

The issue of remote working has gradually risen to become one of the leading concepts in the modern society. Currently, people can work from any location and deliver their tasks under minimal supervision. The advancements in the field of information communication technology have changed the way employees perform their duties. To establish the prevalence of the concept and ascertain how companies are utilizing it, the study examined a number of articles that have delved into the field of remote working. The study focused on the qualitative methods that the articles have used as well as the instruments that they employed in data collection. Apparently, some of the qualitative methods dominant in the articles are observation and surveys. Consequently, unstructured interviews and telephone surveys are evident all through the articles analyzed by the study. Notably, the study observed that numerous researchers used these methods because they yield accurate and dependable results. Additionally, the study realized that the authors of these articles held the notion that unstructured interviews and surveys provide timely feedback and give the respondents the permission to express their opinions, unlike other instruments.

Survey, Observation, and Interviews

The article ‘Challenges and opportunities of teleworking for workers and employers in the ICTs and financial services sector’ drafted by the International Labor Organization (2016) used survey and observation as its qualitative methods. Additionally, the article uses unstructured interviews as an instrument to collect data on remote working. In its explanation of the remote working and its relevance in modern societies, the article argues that some researchers do not provide accurate findings because of their reliance on methods and instruments that do not reflect the actual issue of remote working. In the same vein, the article elucidates that accurate results originate from studies that employ correct methods and instruments. According to the International Labor Organization (2016), unstructured interviews that use randomly selected employees and employers will go a long way in providing accurate results on the prevalence of remote working and the rate at which employers are contracting virtual employees. In the assertion, the article clarifies that the questions help pull out details from the respondents and develop a robust study that amplifies the benefits accrued from remote employment.

Some of the questions that the article advances in the argument include the frequency of remote contracts, the use of ICT, and the duration of working remotely. Moreover, the questions revolve around the attitude that modern society has towards the issue. To ensure that the method yields dependable results, instruments utilize ordinal scale. By using the scale, the quality of data received not only improves but also the reliability of the study augments. In the assertion presented by Csikszentmihalyi and Larson (2014), the reliability of data improves when the study uses scales that increase the room for data collection. The assertion compounds the utility of the method above and instruments presented by the article. By using qualitative methods such as surveys and observation, as well as instruments, which comprise interviews and scales, the article becomes one of the best in the study of remote working in organizations.

Observation and Unstructured Interviews

Observation method is also evident in the article developed by Spreitzer, Cameron, and Garrett (2017), which claims that remote working is an alternative type of working practice. From the article, the issue of remote working is referenced as an alternative form of employment that has thrived over the recent past. It is important to note that the article explains the rise of virtual offices in various parts of the world where employers and employees prefer working from the comfort of their homes or desirable locations. Apparently, a number of results presented in the article are those derived from observation backed by research from other scholars. The method that the article uses widely is observations made in workplaces. To ensure that the results obtained by the article are dependable and devoid of errors, the observation made was a product of close supervision and scrutiny. As a result, the information that the respondents provided was based on actual events but not from misguided perceptions. The implication of close supervision is a study provides results that help employees and companies to make informed decisions concerning the issue of remote working.

Apparently, the instrument that the article uses to present its findings and justify its research is unstructured interviews. From the article, it is clear that unstructured interviews with well-designed questions play an integral role in amplifying the relevance of a particular study (Spreitzer, Cameron, & Garrett 2017). Moreover, the study also utilizes surveys as an instrument. A number of findings used are outcomes of surveys conducted by the article as well as other scholars espoused in the article. The use of more than one instrument to collect and present data on the issue of remote working is important as it helps the target audience understand the issue. Additionally, the instruments present data that is useful for employees and employers who consume and implement them in the process of executing their daily initiatives. It is fundamental to explain that substantial findings and productive ideas emanate from studies, which utilize more than one instrument to collect data.

Observation, Telephone Surveys, and Unstructured Interviews

In an elaborate experiment, Bloom et al. (2015) established the effectiveness of remote employment using random observation and survey. The research observed a group of individuals under study and examined their level of satisfaction as well as their productivity. To ensure that the information collected was correct, the observation was random and entailed close supervision. Close supervision implies that the people under study had to demonstrate that indeed they were working but not surfing the internet. According to Bloom et al. (2015), supervision was close and focused on ensuring that the employees did not only work from home but also not return to the office during the period of study. Moreover, the study conducted the survey via telephone and collected information from the sample concerning the scale of satisfaction derived from remote working.

Notably, instruments that the article utilized in its study are interviews and telephone surveys. The data that the study collected emanated from interviews and surveys conducted on the treatment group. The questions were flexible and allowed the respondents to lead the interviewer. By executing the interview as per the above format, the study utilized unstructured interview. It is practical to allude that unstructured interviews are very important data collection instruments because they help researchers collect information from the respondents without forcing them to follow a predetermined protocol (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson 2014). Another important instrument that the study used to improve the quality of its data comprises telephone surveys. Researchers contacted the treatment group randomly and conducted a survey on the progress of their work from home. The survey also delved into matters such as satisfaction and experiences of employees who worked from home.

Research Methodology

Research Design

The study will employ qualitative research design in examining effective introduction and adoption of remote working framework in a government department. According to Maxwell (2012), qualitative research design is advantageous in research because it does not structure or restrict answers from respondents. When answering posed open questions in an interview, respondents have the liberty of answering them as they deem fit and appropriate based on their understanding and experiences. As the study seeks to understand how employees and management in a government department perceive remote working in terms of infrastructural requirements, skills needed, benefits, challenges, and ways of overcoming challenges, the qualitative approach is an effective research design. Creswell (2013) adds that the qualitative research design provides a way of getting an in-depth scrutiny of a phenomenon and offers insightful information. The use of qualitative research design is appropriate for it allows researchers to collect qualitative data from individuals through interviews, surveys, focus groups, and observations (Roller & Lavrakas 2015). In this case, the study will collect qualitative data using questionnaire.

Sampling

The study will sample employees and managers in a government department and administer questionnaires to them. To get adequate responses from participants, the study will employ convenience method of sampling. According to Creswell (2015), convenience sampling is appropriate in sampling participants present in a given environment. Moreover, convenience sampling is advantageous because it is not only cheap but also enhances representation of the target population. The study will select three people from the government department in the pilot study and then select 10 people in the actual study.

Approriate Research Instrument

The study will use the questionnaire as a research instrument in collecting data from employees and managers in a government department. Marshall and Rossman (2015) assert that questionnaire is the most effective instrument in qualitative research because it allows respondents to answer questions without undue influence from researchers. In interviews, researchers usually probe and influence interviewees to respond to questions according to their perceptions (Merriam & Tisdell 2016). Therefore, to answer the research questions, the study will construct the questionnaire based on research questions and research framework.

Data Analysis

The study will analyze qualitative data collected in the questionnaire using thematic analysis. Marshall and Rossman (2015) explain that thematic analysis allows researchers to establish trends and patterns of themes among diverse responses to derive meaningful findings. Fundamentally, the study will establish themes associated with infrastructure of remote working, skills of employees, benefits of remote working practice, common challenges, and ways of managing and overcoming these challenges.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The proposal concludes that remote working is a modern way of working practice occasioned by the rapid globalization and advancement in information technology. Ample studies have shown that remote working has substantial benefits to both organizations and employees. Modern organizations adopt the remote working practice to reduce operating costs and improve performance among employees. Moreover, employees adopt the practice of remote working to have freedom and flexibility in the workplace, boost their satisfaction, improve their performance, and optimize the use of their time. However, numerous challenges such as laxity, work indiscipline, poor supervision, meager performance, and work-life conflict affect benefits of remote working. Therefore, organizations and government departments need to understand these challenges so that they can overcome and optimize benefits of remote working.

Based on the literature, the proposal identified areas of important in remote working, which organizations and government departments need to understand for effective introduction and adoption of remote working. Therefore, the proposal makes the following recommendations:

  • The government department should ensure that there are adequate infrastructural requirements such as powerful computers, reliable internet connection, secure organizational network, updated software, and employee management system.
  • The government department should recruit and train competent employees who are techno-savvy for them to adopt remote working practice effectively.
  • The government department needs to set targets for employees to achieve based on the potential benefits of remote working and effective management.
  • The government department should understand the existence of challenges such as poor supervision, laxity, hacking, work-life conflict, and reduced performance.
  • The government department should overcome challenges by using the remote management system to monitor employees, setting up a secure network to prevent hacking, and training employees on social skills to cope with remote working practice.

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