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Government Urged to Move on Telework

Government Urged to Move on Telework

The Facilitator of the Australian Telework Awareness initiative says telework is a very good idea, which Australian government CIOs should be promoting far more vigorously

Few CIOs understand just how beneficial and relatively straightforward telework can be to implement — and the massive benefits that can be derived

Australian government departments are letting the nation down by failing to lead by example on greater adoption of telework, according to the Facilitator of the Australian Telework Awareness initiative.

Bevis England says telework is a very good idea which government CIOs should be promoting far more vigorously, in the interest of achieving both more efficient use of IT infrastructure and making major contributions to greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

But England, director of Telework New Zealand, who is working in consultation with the federal government's Department of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy (DBCDE) to raise awareness and drive debate around telework in Australia, says few CIOs understand just how beneficial and relatively straightforward telework can be to implement, and the massive benefits that can be derived.

"It's not unusual for governments to be slow to take up on some of these ideas, just as it is not unusual for any traditional or hierarchical business structure to take up on these ideas quickly. And it's an innovative idea for many people, and for a lot of people it gets put into the too hard basket very quickly, particularly when all they can see are major changes in the way that they are going to have to manage staff," he says.

"When they can also see the potential benefits, not only to the organization or department but also to the wider economy, then we find that take-up increases quite markedly."

He says international experience shows when government shows the way and also provides easily accessed telework resources, adoption by the private sector tends to soar.

"The way it has been used overseas in New Zealand and in the States and in Europe has been to provide resources and make those resources easily available and then publicize their availability," England says. "What has been found internationally is that once the work has been done, telework has jumped exponentially in those countries and within companies. And a leading part of that growth has been the adoption by government departments."

The standout example is the United States, where the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) 2007 Report on the Status of Telework in the Federal Government found telework in most agencies had jumped, with the number of teleworkers increasing at 49 of the 80 reporting agencies and more than half of those employees teleworking at least once a week. Their example had encouraged wider private sector adoption of telework initiatives, England says.

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