Teleworking revolution gathers pace

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AN EXTRA 300,000 employees in Britain started to work from home over the past 12 months as part of the "teleworking" revolution, says a poll published today.

But while high-tech companies are quickly shedding the "bums-on-seats" approach to work, traditionally managed organisations are resisting the change, the MORI survey indicated. The poll, commissioned by information technology group Mitel, found that more than 5 per cent of the working population - some 1.3 million people - now spend part of their working week at home, compared with 1 million in the previous 12 months.

It was found that nearly one in three "knowledge workers", especially in the financial sector, telecommunications, marketing, sales, professional services and media were now teleworking or planning to do so.

In a booklet published yesterday by the Confederation of British Industry and Mitel, it was argued that far more jobs could be partly performed at home with the help of an on-line computer, or even a lap-top and a modem. Strategic Workstyles, an Oxford consultancy, forecast that 25 per cent of jobs could be the subject of teleworking while the Telework, Telecottage and Telecentre Association estimates that the proportion could be as much as a half of all non-manual jobs.

However, in nine out of 10 businesses where employees are not already teleworking, managements say they have no plans to take up the option."Company policy" is cited as the reason.

Paul Butcher, managing director of Mitel, said that while Britain was way ahead of continental countries in switching to home-working, we were behind the US.

Mitel argues that there are substantial long-term financial advantages for companies, and environmental advantages for the community.