Telecommuting Problem at Etisalat UAE Company

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 23
Words: 6306
Reading time:
23 min
Study level: Undergraduate

Introduction

Teleworking or telecommuting has gained significance over the past few years. The revolutionary innovations that have come with the evolution of the Information Technology as a business tool present people with alternative ways of conducting business, and teleworking is such an alternative. Most companies in the US and Europe have integrated the concept of teleworking in their operations. Cooper and Kurland (2002) define telecommuting as “a work arrangement where organizational employees work at home instead of their offices” (p. 81). Extensive research has been done on teleworking over the past two decades. During the 1980s and 1990s, the concept of teleworking was mainly used in the exchange of goods and services. The core objective that motivated most organizations to integrate telecommuting was the need to avoid traffic. Moreover, the telecommuting was perceived as a major strategy in company’s effort to minimize the cost of operation. The idea during the 1980s was that telecommuting would enable an organization eliminate the expense of office space. Currently, teleworking is perceived as an optimal human resource management strategy with regard to developing strong human capital base. According to Cooper and Kurland (2002), telecommuting enables organizations attract and retain employees. In an effort to promote competitive advantage with regard to human capital, organizations are increasingly integrating the concept of telecommuting. A survey on work trends conducted in the US in 2000 reveals that 62% of workers telecommute at least once per week.

In only 3 hours we’ll deliver a custom Telecommuting Problem at Etisalat UAE Company essay written 100% from scratch Get help

The development of Information Technology (IT) has played a significant role in the growth of telecommuting. Frisbie and Fribie (2007) assert that telecommuting is based on information. CIGNA is one of the leading insurance firms in the US that have integrated the concept of telecommuting. The firm developed 3000 telecommuting arrangements in an effort to improve its employees’ productivity (Fribie & Frisbie, 2007). CIGNA’s telecommuting program was also motivated by the need to provide female workers with an opportunity to take care of their personal business. The development of different computer technologies has led to an increment in the rate at which employees are substituting physical travel with teleworking. Consequently, teleworking is increasingly becoming a common trend in the work environment. Frisbie and Fribie (2007) opine that the 21st century is characterized by the emergence of an “anytime, anywhere work culture” (p. 54). Some of the factors that have motivated the integration of telecommuting include the need to balance between family and work, the emergence of a global workforce, and development in information communication technology. Telecommuting is vital in organizations’ efforts to improve their competitive advantage with regard to human resource management. Consequently, it is imperative for managers to understand the benefits and costs associated with telecommuting. This move will give organizations insight into the most effective telecommuting program to adopt.

Problem statement

Despite the high rate at which telecommuting is being adopted by organizations in different parts of the world such as the US and Europe, the concept remains alien to some organizations. A study conducted by WorldatWork in the US shows that 26.2 million employees worked from home in 2010, which represents approximately 20% of the total workforce in the US (Yousef, 2011). The effectiveness of telecommuting programs in some organizations is limited by various factors. Some of these factors include the managements’ failure to understand the benefits of telecommuting. Yousef (2011) further opines that some managers are stuck on conventional human resource management practices such as ‘line-of-sight’ management practice. Lack of sufficient training on the impact of telecommuting on an organization’s bottom-line is another major hindrance to the growth of telecommuting. Moreover, some managers are not comfortable with working from home programs.

The United Arabs Emirates [UAE] is one of the countries where the concept of working from home is not well established. Management teams of most firms in the UAE have not shifted from the traditional corporate culture. An example of such an organization includes the Emirates Integrated Telecommunication Company[hereafter called Etisalat UAE]. As a result, the concept whereby employees have to be physically present in the workplace is still dominant (Yousef, 2011). Additionally, most employees in the UAE consider telecommuting as a way to spend ample time with family rather than as an employee motivation strategy (Yousef, 2011). The problem of telecommuting is prevalent in both the private and public sectors. Consequently, the ability of these firms to develop their competitive advantage with regard to human capital is limited. Considering the aforementioned gaps with regard to telecommuting in the UAE, it is imperative for management teams of firms in the UAE to develop a comprehensive understanding of telecommuting. This move will give them insight into the most effective telecommuting program to implement. An analysis of telecommuting with specific reference to the case of the Etisalat UAE is outlined. The firm is one of the leading telecommunication companies in the Gulf Region.

Research objectives

The study is guided by a number of research objectives, which are outlined herein.

  1. To evaluate the challenges faced by Etisalat UAE employees in their quest to work from home.
  2. To analyze the benefits gained by employees and the organization due to the work from home program.
  3. To illustrate the strategies that Etisalat UAE can adopt in order to foster telecommuting in the organization.

Research questions

The following questions will be analyzed in accordance with the above research objectives.

  1. What challenges do Etisalat UAE employees face in their quest to work from home?
  2. What benefits do Etisalat employees and the organization gain by working from home?
  3. What strategies can Etisalat UAE adopt in order to integrate the concept of telecommuting successfully?

Literature Review

Different meanings of the term teleworking have been formulated. Aboelmaged and Elamin (2009) define telecommuting as “working at home or at an alternate location and communicating with the usual place of work using electronic or other means, instead of physically traveling to a more distant work site” (p. 19). Organizations can adopt various telecommuting arrangements and some of these arrangements relate to company-initiated, employee-initiated, informal, and formal arrangements. Formal telecommuting arrangements constitute a contract between employees and the organization. The contract outlines the number of hours that an employee should work offsite and the number of hours or days he or she is required to be physically available at the workplace. Previous academic research shows that the concept of teleworking has continued to gain significance over the past few decades. Moreover, studies show that telecommuting will continue to grow into the future. According to Hamilton (2002), the popularity and preference of telecommuting amongst employers and employees depend on various factors. Some of these factors relate to economic and socio-demographic variables, for example, the employees’ age, gender, marital status, internet use, and gender. Hamilton (2002) opines that employee-initiated telecommuting arises from the need to minimize the amount of time spent when commuting, the need to balance family and work demands, and to alleviate the disturbances encountered in office settings. For example, telecommuting minimizes distractions due to office politics (Amigoni, 2010).

Academic experts
available
We will write a custom Employee Management essay specifically for you for only $16.00 $11/page Learn more

An individual’s professional status and gender are great determinants of telecommuting. Women with families are likely to support the integration of teleworking in their workplace, for women are the conventional caregivers within the family settings. Similarly, the likelihood of young adults supporting teleworking is high compared to older adults. Moreover, the length of service, race, and nature of the job has an impact on employees’ choice of telecommuting. Hispanics and Caucasians are likely to adopt teleworking compared to Asians and African-Americans (Aboelmaged & Elamin, 2009). On the other hand, employees working in the educational sector are more likely to support teleworking compared to other organizations.

Some employees support teleworking while others do not, and this variation arises from the fact that some employees fear working out-of-sight and offsite, as they perceive telecommuting as a major limitation in their quest to be rewarded through promotional opportunities. Moreover, some employees are of the opinion that working remotely deprives them of the opportunity to interact and share with colleagues. Consequently, isolation is cited as the main reason that demotivates employees to telecommute (Aboelmaged & Elamin, 2009).

Impetus for telecommuting

Syetlov (2009) asserts, “The environment today may be characterized by change, complexity, interconnectedness, and development of technologies” (p.1). The changes emanating from the internal and external business environment are calling for organizations to be more innovative and flexible. Employees are demanding a high level of autonomy. Consequently, telecommuting is being considered as one of the facets of firms’ effort to develop flexible organizations and work environments (Syetlov, 2009). Telecommuting is very appealing to organizations that are energy-efficient, environmental and time conscious, and people-oriented. The high rate of globalization has increased the competitive pressures and environmental pressures faced by firms. The business environment is shifting from capital-based economies to service and information-based economies. These changes have created an environment that is conducive for telecommuting hence increasing the likelihood of organizations succeeding.

Labor market forces have also played a critical role in the development of telecommuting. the need to bring jobs closer to potential employees who may find it difficult to conventional forms of employment, for example, women with young children, the physically challenged, and categories of potential employees who are unwilling or unable to travel has increased. Organizations are increasingly considering the most effective strategy that they can adopt in order to tap this market group.

The existence of transportation bottlenecks is another major impetus for telecommuting. Many developing countries are characterized by poor transport infrastructure. As a result, traffic congestion is a common phenomenon. Employees waste a substantial amount of their time in traffic jams. The need to conserve energy is another major impetus towards telecommuting. The developed countries such as the US and UK depend on oil from the Middle East. Most organizations in these countries are of the opinion that their dependence on oil imports can be reduced considerably by adopting telecommuting.

Characteristics of “telecommutable” occupations

Firms in different economic sectors are incorporating telecommuting in their strategic human resource management practices. Telecommuting is mainly prevalent in some professions compared to others. Some of the occupations in which telecommuting is prevalent include;

  1. Professions that can offer employees a high level of independence
  2. Occupations that require a high degree of concentration
  3. Jobs that involve minimal physical access, minimal examination, and instruction

Cost-benefit analysis of telecommuting

Many companies are doubtful of the benefits associated with telecommuting. Their main concern is the supervision of telecommuters. Zemliansky and Amant (2008) are of the opinion that lack of direct supervision has a negative impact on the employees’ performance. Some organizations are of the opinion that telecommuting lowers the telecommuters’ morale and level of job satisfaction. For example, integrating telecommuting leads to the alienation of employees who do not like working in isolation. Previous studies show that the performance of employees who prefer working in groups is negatively affected by telecommuting. Consequently, their performance may not be appealing (Zemliansky & Amant, 2008). A survey conducted on 5,000 British Tobacco employees in 2001 showed that 19% of the respondents interviewed do not prefer telecommuting due to the social isolation associated with telecommuting (Verbeke et al., 2008). Most organizations that have incorporated conventional management approaches tend to overlook the benefits associated with telecommuting. Previous studies have outlined the advantages and disadvantages associated with telecommuting. However, minimal research has been done to measure the costs and benefits of telecommuting.

15% OFF Get your very first custom-written academic paper with 15% off Get discount

Benefits and Costs of telecommuting: the employees’ perspective

Both the employer and the employees benefit from telecommuting in a number of ways. First, telecommuting saves the amount of time that employees require to commute to and from their workplace every day. For example, employees living in areas with traffic congestion save approximately 1 to 2 hours per day. Telecommuting provides employees with a high degree of autonomy and flexibility. Thus, employees are in a position to organize their workdays. Verbeke et al. (2008) emphasize that telecommuting gives employees the discretion to plan their work behaviors and the pace at which they will execute tasks. Flexibility is one of the major benefits that most telecommuters identify. For example, employees have the discretion to work late at night or during early morning hours (Verbeke et al., 2008).

Zemliansky and Amant (2008) opine that flexibility and autonomy increase the employees’ level of job satisfaction and productivity. On the flipside, telecommuting leads to the development of a feeling of social isolation, as the employee does not have an opportunity to interact with their workmates. Hamilton (2002) opines, “Lack of face-to-face interaction with co-workers can leave many telecommuters feeling socially isolated and out-of-the-loop” (p.12). Consequently, employees may not have an opportunity to celebrate their success with co-workers. Working in a traditional office setting presents employees with an opportunity to learn new concepts. For example, in the course of executing their duties, employees may be faced with complex and daunting tasks. The employees benefit from sharing knowledge and information on how to execute the tasks. Working in conventional office settings presents employees with an opportunity to access formal training. For example, some organizations may hold seminars, workshops, and other short employee courses, which might be scheduled during telecommuting days. Thus, telecommuters miss such opportunities. Verke et al (2008) are of the opinion that this assertion is in-line with the famous saying “out of sight, out of mind” (p. 30).Therefore, telecommuting limits the employees’ ability to learn.

Zemliansky and Amant (2008) are of the opinion that career advancement is one of the most important goals that motivate employees to continue working in a particular organization. Most telecommuters are of the opinion that telecommuting limits the employees’ desire to achieve their career objectives, as the managers are not in a position to conduct an effective performance appraisal. Some telecommuters may perceive the process of performance appraisal being unfair. The employees may perceive being present at the workplace as a critical factor in managements’ performance appraisal (Zemliansky & Amant, 2008). Thus, they may resist telecommuting. In a bid to deal with this challenge, it is imperative for organizations to adopt effective employee appraisal strategies. One of the ways through which this goal can be achieved is by ensuring that employee performance is based on work output as opposed to the number of hours that the employee spends in the office. This move will play a critical role in eliminating the perception that ‘face-time’ is rewarded. Hamilton (2002) affirms that it is important for organizations considering incorporate the concept of telecommuting in their human resource management strategies to involve the employees. The involvement will enable managers to develop a comprehensive understanding of the costs of employees’ career advancement goals. As a result, firms will gain insight into the most effective telecommuting arrangement to adopt.

Working from home presents employees with a major challenge on how to organize their time between work and other personal activities. In most cases, employees working from home experience distraction from various sources such as children, television, and other household chores. Thus, the telecommuters’ level of concentration and hence getting the job done within the set timeframe is adversely affected (Zemliansky & Amant, 2008). The concept of telecommuting means that employees can work anywhere. Thus, employees find themselves working during odd hours such as weekends, during holidays, and late into the evening. Findings of a study conducted by the Centre for Work & Family show that 46% of telecommuters worked during their vacation while 34% worked during their normal office hours (Hamilton, 2002). Telecommuting leads to loss of direct communication, given all employees’ communication with their firm’s management teams is through virtual mediums such as emails. Therefore, telecommuting makes employees feel disconnected especially if they are working through virtual teams.

Benefits and Costs of telecommuting: the employers’ perspective

Organizations can accrue various benefits by incorporating the concept of telecommuting. First, telecommuting contributes towards improvement in the employees’ level of productivity for employees have an opportunity to work in an environment that is free from typical office distractions. Moreover, employees have additional time to work because they do not need to commute (Verbeke et al., 2008). This aspect increases the level of concentration and focuses on their duties. A survey conducted by AT&T company shows that the firm’s productivity has improved consistently due to the additional productive hours that employees have per day. Similarly, 78% of employees in British Tobacco interviewed were of the opinion that their productivity had increased due to telecommuting (Verbeke et al., 2008).

Telecommuting increases an organization’s talent pool (Verbeke et al., 2008). The labor market is characterized by a wide talent pool that is unexploited because of a lack of flexible working opportunities. It is imperative for organizations to consider the most effective strategy to adopt in order to tap into this talent pool. Zemliansky and Amant (2008) opine that this move will increase the organization’s competitiveness with regard to human capital. Telecommuting also plays a critical role in firms’ efforts to reduce their overhead cost of operation. For example, an organization is in a position to minimize the cost of investing in office buildings and parking lots and other administrative expenditures. Consequently, firms have an opportunity to invest their funds in other income-generating activities. According to Verbeke et al. (2008), teleworking reduces employee absenteeism. Employees can complete some tasks from home if they are unable to go to the office. Moreover, telecommuting provides employees with an opportunity to take care of their personal tasks. Employers perceive working from home to be strongly correlated with high job performance, reduction in lost wages, and reduction of the level of stress amongst employees (Verbeke et al., 2008).

Despite the aforementioned benefits, organizations incur various costs due to telecommuting. One of these costs relates to the difficulties associated with assessing the employees’ productivity and monitoring their performance. Employers do not have an opportunity to see what their employees are doing. Firms that have adopted the ‘line-of-sight’ management approach perceive telecommuting to be a major hindrance in their effort to improve the employees’ productivity. Hamilton (2002) is of the opinion that it is imperative for organizations that have integrated the concept of telecommuting to be committed in nurturing a high level of trust amongst employees. Moreover, the firms must ensure that employees are empowered to make decisions.

Get your customised and 100% plagiarism-free paper on any subject done for only $16.00 $11/page Let us help you

Verket et al (2008) are of the opinion that the effectiveness with which organizations implement telecommuting is dependent on the available information communication technologies. Telecommuters require certain information communication technologies such as software and hardware in order to perform their duties. Most employees may not have such technologies. Employers may require employees to implement the required technologies on their own. However, the firm may not reimburse the cost incurred to the employees. Thus, employees incur additional personal expenditures. Failure by organizations to provide the necessary communication technologies, such as fast Internet connections and other forms of technical support, would make telecommuters dissatisfied and frustrated (Verke et al, 2008). To deal with these challenges, it is fundamental for organizations to outline clear policies on the personal expenditure on ICT that employees incur in the process of setting up home offices that will be reimbursed and those that will not. The policies should be updated and reviewed periodically. Organizations should also outline the necessary configurations that telecommuters should implement in their personal computers.

Developing teamwork and synergy amongst telecommuters is another major challenge faced by organizations that have adopted the concept of telecommuting. Telecommuting does not provide employees with an opportunity to interact face-to-face with their colleagues hence making it difficult to establish a supportive and trusting working relationship (Zemliansky & Amant, 2008). Employees require true human-moment experience in order to perform effectively. Lack of face-to-face interaction due to telecommuting limits such human-moment experience. According to Verke et al (2008), telecommuting enables organizations that have “individuals who have difficulty getting along with others socially to focus entirely on their work and bring only their professional skills to a team, rather than less functional inputs that may stress and upset intra-team relationships” (p. 29). To develop strong working relationships, it is imperative for organizations to combine telecommuting and onsite work arrangements (Zemliansky & Amant, 2008). Moreover, organizations should ensure that the information communicated through online mediums is secure. The company may require employees to implement specific security measures, which may limit the employees’ freedom with regard to how they utilize their personal computers. For example, the company may require employees to use their computers for specific business activities in order to safeguard the company’s data. Most employees perceive such limitations to be major limitations (Verke et al, 2008).

Telecommuting also presents a major challenge in a firm’s effort to develop strong organizational culture, nurturing a high level of organizational commitment and organizational identification. According to Hamilton (2002), telecommuting presents a major challenge in a firm’s effort to create, develop and sustain a strong organizational culture. First, the organization is not in a position to nurture a strong working relationship and trust amongst telecommuters. Moreover, telecommuting reduces the degree of organizational commitment and identification amongst employees. Employees may feel detached from working remotely. Employees may also perceive personal commitments to be more important compared to their work assignments, which adversely affects the degree of employee loyalty.

Methodology

Research design

This study focuses on a number of issues, which include evaluating the challenges faced by Etisalat UAE employees in their quest to work from home, the benefits gained by employees, and the organization due to working from home program. Others include illustrating the telecommuting programs that Etisalat UAE can adopt in order to improve its competitive advantage with regard to human resource management. In a bid to achieve the above research objective, a comprehensive research design is used. Creswell (2003) defines research design to include a framework that is used by researchers in the process of collecting and analyzing data regarding a particular issue. Therefore, one can define research design as the architectural blueprint that is adopted in the process of conducting a particular study. Research design is paramount in conducting a particular study, as it makes the findings of a particular study logical (Maxwell, 2005).

In conducting this study, the researcher has used both quantitative and qualitative research designs. By using a qualitative research design, the researcher was in a position to gather a substantial volume of data from the target population. The qualitative research design also enabled the researcher to develop a comprehensive understanding of the respondents’ real-life experiences and opinions with regard to telecommuting. This goal was achieved by interacting with the respondents. Qualitative research design enables researchers to collect a wide volume of data. Maxwell (2005) asserts, “Qualitative research design is defined as a multi-method of research which is interpretive in nature” (p.34). Moreover, Maxwell (2005) asserts that qualitative design is naturalistic. Therefore, it is critical for the collected data to be condensed.

Population and sample

Effective identification of the target population is very important in the process of investigating a particular issue. The target population has an influence on the quality of a study’s findings. Considering that the study intends to understand the extent to which organizations in the UAE have integrated the concept of telecommuting, the study has identified Etisalat UAE employees as the target population.

Random sampling was used in the process of selecting the sample. Creswell (2003) defines sampling as the process of selecting a sample, which is a subset of the total population. The rationale behind sampling is that it enables the researcher to minimize the cost of research. Studying the entire population is not only costly but also impractical. Sampling makes a particular study to be manageable and easy hence enabling the researcher to conduct an in-depth and thorough investigation regarding the subject. In conducting this study, a sample of 200 employees from Etisalat UAE was selected using a simple random sampling technique. Etisalat UAE has a human resource base of 11,000 employees. Therefore, it is impossible to conduct a survey on all employees. Simple random sampling was used in order to eliminate bias. Thus, all the employees had an equal chance of being selected as a sample. Random sampling enabled the researcher to select employees from different levels of management. Additionally, the researcher assumed that a sample of 200 respondents would minimize the occurrence of type1 and type 2 errors.

Data collection

The credibility of a particular research is influenced by the quality of data collected. Consequently, it is imperative for researchers to ensure that the quality of data collected is high. In conducting this study, the researcher has mainly relied on primary sources of data. The researcher used interviews and questionnaires as the main data collection instruments. Face-to-face interviews and telephone interviews were conducted. Decision to adopt interviews was informed by the need to gather sufficient data. Interviews gave the researcher an opportunity to ask the respondents additional questions. With regard to questionnaires, the researcher used both open ended and close-ended questionnaires. Open-ended questionnaires were used in order to provide the respondents with the freedom to answer the questions in accordance with their opinion. On the other hand, close-ended questionnaires were used in order to get specific answers from the respondents.

Data analysis and presentation

In a bid to achieve the research objectives, the researcher analyzed the research questions together, which enabled the researcher to develop a comprehensive understanding of the trend of telecommuting in Etisalat UAE. Considering the volume of data collected through qualitative research, the researcher appreciated the importance of effective analysis and presentation of the study’s findings. The researcher used graphs and tables in presenting the findings, which was made possible by integrating Microsoft Excel.

Findings and Data Analysis

Telecommuting is increasingly becoming a common human resource management practice. However, some organizations have not appreciated the significance of telecommuting in a firm’s effort to develop a strong human capital base. The firms’ reluctance emanates from a number of factors. This chapter entails a comprehensive analysis of the research findings with regard to Etisalat UAE. The first part outlines a description of the respondents’ demographic and professional characteristics. The demographic variables considered include the respondent’s gender, age, and educational qualification. On the other hand, professional variables took into the employee’s level of management. In a bid to eliminate bias, both male and female employees were evaluated. Fifty percent (50%) of the respondents considered were female while 50% were male. The chart below outlines the respondents’ demographic and professional characteristics.

Characteristic
Gender
Male
Female
Number of respondents
100
100
Marital status
Married 110
Single 90
Educational qualification
Tertiary education
University degree
College diploma
Vocational training institutes
50
85
30
35
Age
20-30 15
31-35 50
36-40 65
41-45 25
46-50 20
51 and above 25
Chart 1.
Respondents demographic characteristics
Graph 1.

Professional characteristics

The researcher segmented the respondents on the basis of their job position. Two main groups were considered which include the managers and the ordinary employees. Three main levels of management include top-level managers, middle-level managers, and lower-level management. The chart below illustrates the number of respondents selected on the basis of their job position.

Job position Number of respondents
Top-level managers 25
Middle-level managers 35
Lower level managers 40
Ordinary employees 100
Total 200

Chart 2.

Professional characteristics
Graph 2.

Analysis of research questions

Ninety-five percent of the respondents interviewed were of the opinion that telecommuting is essential in Etisalat UAE’s effort to attain an optimal market position within the Gulf region, as telecommuting would increase the firm’s attractiveness to potential employees. Consequently, Etisalat UAE will be in a position to develop a strong talent pool. When asked why they preferred telecommuting, 80% of the ordinary employees interviewed cited flexibility as the main motivator towards the concept of telecommuting. The choice of telecommuting arrangement varied across the male and female gender. Eighty-five percent (85%) of the women interviewed prefer full-time telecommuting arrangements. Only 63% of the male gender interviewed cited full-time telecommuting arrangement as their choice. When asked why their responses varied. Most men were of the opinion that full-time telecommuting would limit their likelihood of career progression within the workplace. Most male employees in Etisalat UAE hold the view that one has to be physically present at the workplace in order to get promotional opportunities. Consequently, they prefer part-time telecommuting arrangements. On the contrary, the female employees interviewed preferred fulltime telecommuting because it provides them the convenience, personal freedom, and work flexibility in order to take care of their personal activities.

Eighty-five percent of the employees who are married prefer telecommuting compared to 40% of those who are not married. Moreover, 80% of ordinary employees interviewed were of the opinion that they would not prefer telecommuting because of various home inadequacies. Some of the inadequacies cited include noise at their homes, coordination difficulties, data insecurity, and lack of inapplicable teamwork. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the respondents interviewed were of the opinion that telecommuting would lead to working overtime. Ninety percent (90%) of the employees were of the opinion that telecommuting would adversely affect their performance, as telecommuting would lead to isolation. The respondents were of the opinion that they prefer working in office settings. The respondents asserted that telecommuting would limit their ability to interact and share with their co-workers. The study also shows that age is a major determinant with regard to telecommuting. Eighty-five percent of the employees interviewed whose age is less than 50 years perceive telecommuting to be a perfect opportunity towards achieving work-life balance.

When asked whether Etisalat UAE has integrated the concept of telecommuting, the managers said that the firm has not. The managers cited a number of reasons that have inhibited its failure to integrate telecommuting in its HR management practices. Sixty percent (60%) of the managers interviewed cited a number of factors that have inhibited telecommuting in Etisalat UAE. The managers were of the opinion that telecommuting would reduce the employees’ concentration in executing their tasks. Sixty-five percent (65%) of the top-level managers interviewed cited security risk as the major factor hindering the firm from integrating the concept of telecommuting.

In their opinion, the top-level managers were of the opinion that telecommuting would present a major risk to the firm’s competitive advantage, as the firm would be required to share company data with telecommuters through their personal computers. Consequently, the company’s data would be at risk of being hacked by competitors. Moreover, the top managers were of the opinion that telecommuting would lead to an increment in the cost of operation as the firm would be required to assist the telecommuters in implementing additional information communication technologies. The firm would also incur additional costs in the process of upgrading and maintaining its ICT. Ninety percent (90%) of all the managers interviewed cited a number of management concerns. Some of these concerns include difficulties in controlling and evaluating employee performance, misplacement of organizational vision and mission, the inapplicability of organizational rules and regulations. For example, the managers were of the opinion that it would be difficult to control how employees utilize their time. In most cases, home time is mismanaged. The telecommuters may perceive their personal commitments to be more important compared to work-related activities. Thus, the likelihood of some urgent tasks being delayed is high.

Discussion, conclusion, and recommendations

The study shows that demographic characteristics and job position play a significant role in determining the effectiveness with which organizations integrate telecommuting in their human resource management practices. The study shows that female employees in the UAE prefer full-time telecommuting compared to their male counterparts as telecommuting provides employees with a high level of autonomy and flexibility. Moreover, telecommuting enables female employees to achieve the convenience that they desire in order to take care of their families. According to Aboelmaged and Elamin (2009), women perceive telecommuting as an opportunity to change from the traditional work orientation. Thus, they are in a position to handle their work responsibilities with a high degree of freedom. Aboelmaged and Elamin (2009) further opine that telecommuting will be a common trend amongst female employees in the UAE.

Marital status is another major factor that influences the choice of telecommuting. The study shows that teleworking is of great interest amongst married employees. Telecommuting provides parents with an opportunity to take care of their young children. Thus, most married employees in the firm perceive telecommuting to be an effective strategy that can contribute towards time saving. No specific association was drawn on the relationship between educational level and telecommuting preferences. Consequently, the choice of telecommuting is mainly influenced by the telecommuter’s ability to develop effective telecommuting behavior such as effective time management.

The study also shows the need to develop and sustain the employees’ productivity as a major factor that has hindered the firm from integrating the concept of telecommuting. Both the managers and the employees are of the opinion that telecommuting would inhibit their performance, as telecommuting would increase employee isolation. Aboelmaged and Elamin (2009) are of the opinion that isolation adversely affects the level of commitment amongst employees for employees are hindered from interacting physically with their co-workers. Consequently, the top, middle, and lower-level managers consider the effectiveness of telecommuting to be affected by various home inadequacies. Some of the major inadequacies identified by the Etisalat UAE management team include security risk, difficulties in controlling and coordinating employees, and lack of employee collaboration.

Conclusion

This study has analyzed the concept of telecommuting as one of the new human resource management practices. From the literature review, it is evident that there are a number of benefits and costs associated with telecommuting. The benefits and costs affect both the employer and the employees. For example, telecommuting provides employees with a high degree of flexibility, convenience, and autonomy. However, telecommuters experience a high degree of isolation from their co-workers. Moreover, telecommuters may experience home inadequacies such as distractions. Thus, their concentration and performance at the workplace may be adversely affected. On the other hand, telecommuting benefits telecommuters by minimizing the cost associated with telecommuting. For example, expenditure on office space is eliminated. Moreover, telecommuting enables employees to develop a high level of organizational identification as telecommuting enables employees to develop work-life balance. However, telecommuting may reduce the employees’ productivity because of time mismanagement.

The study has focused on the UAE context by evaluating the opinion of telecommuting amongst managers and employees of Etisalat UAE. The study shows that the firm has not integrated telecommuting. The opinion of both the managers and the lower-level employees on telecommuting varies. The study has investigated the relationship between telecommuting and the employees’ demographic variables. From the study; it is evident that female employees are more inclined to accept the concept of telecommuting compared to their male counterparts. Moreover, the employees’ marital status influences the employees’ choice of telecommuting. Married employees are more likely to telecommute compared to single employees as telecommuting provides married employees with a high degree of convenience with regard to taking care of their families such as children. Age has also been cited to be a major factor in the success of telecommuting.

Research limitations

The study is characterized by a number of limitations that may affect its generalization. First, a small sample size of 200 employees was selected. However, the researcher assumed that their responses represented the views of all Etisalat UAE employees. The study is exploratory in nature. Thus, the researcher does not have an opportunity to undertake an in-depth analysis of the issue under investigation in order to identify all the factors that affect telecommuting in Etisalat and the UAE in general.

Recommendations

In order to exploit the benefits associated with telecommuting, it is imperative for Etisalat UAE to consider the following practical implications and applications.

The firm should incorporate diverse telecommuting arrangements, which will enable the firm to nurture a work-life balance. As a result, the firm will be in a position to develop a high level of organizational identification amongst the employees. Some of the work-life balance strategies that the firm should consider include flexible telecommuting schedules such as full-time and part-time telecommuting. The firm should also integrate the option of not to telecommute. These strategies will enable the firm to accommodate various categories of employees. In a bid to minimize the cost of implementing the necessary ICT for telecommuters, the firm should roll out the program in phases, which will minimize the likelihood of the firm incurring high start-up costs. Rolling the telecommuting program in phases will enable the firm to develop a comprehensive understanding of the contribution of telecommuting to its employee retention efforts. It is also important for the firm to ensure that the ICT technologies used by telecommuters are secure. This goal can be attained through effective configuration and implementation of security measures, which will ensure the confidentiality of the organization’s data. Incorporating various telecommuting programs will enable Etisalat to balance the employees’ productivity and freedom.

In a bid to minimize the home inadequacies associated with telecommuting, Etisalat UAE should consider integrating the concept of telecenters. In telecenters, an organization is in a position to monitor and control the employees’ activities. Moreover, employees have an opportunity to interact with their co-workers. Prior to implementing the various telecommuting arrangements, it is imperative for the Etisalat UAE management team to conduct comprehensive employee training on telecommuting. The introduction of any novel business tool without equipping employees with the proper skills would amount to time and resource wastage. The training should focus on how to utilize the various telecommuting technologies and how to develop effective telecommuting behavior, which will prepare the employees psychologically hence enhancing their ability to work in a new environment. The firm should also ensure that telecommuters are provided with the necessary technical support. Technicians should be available to respond to the telecommuters’ needs such as equipment failures and other types of technical problems, which will increase the telecommuters’ level of satisfaction and hence their commitment to their job.

Reference List

Aboelmaged, M., & Elamin, A. (2009). Teleworking in the UAE: An empirical study of influencing factors, facilitators and inhibitors. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management, 4(1), 18-39.

Amigoni, M. (2010). Managing the telecommuting employee: Set goals, monitor progress, and maximize profit and productivity. Cincinnati, OH: F+W Media.

Cooper, C., & Kurland, N. (2002). Telecommuting, professional isolation and employee development in private organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23(2), 511-532.

Creswell, J. (2003). Research design: qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publishers.

Frisbie, D., & Frisbie, L. (2007). Raising great kids on your own. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers.

Hamilton, E. (2002). Bringing work home: Advantages and challenges of telecommuting. New York, NY: IBM Company.

Maxwell, J. (2005). Qualitative research design: an interactive approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Sage Publication.

Syetlov, O. (2009). Telework; analysis of benefits and implications. New York, NY: GRIN.

Verbeke, A., Schulz, R., Greidanus, N., & Hambley, L. (2008). Growing the virtual workplace: the integrative value proposition for telework. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Yousef, D. (2011). Telecommuting still alien to UAE culture. Web.

Zemliansky, P., & Amant, K. (2008). Handbook of research on virtual workplaces and the new nature of business practices. Hershey, PA: Information Science.