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Telework at Nortel Networks

Increased productivity, increased staff satisfaction, and reduced costs

Some companies have a long track record in implementing telework.  One such company is Nortel Networks, who began their first telework programme (HOMEBase) back in the mid-nineties.  12,000 of the company's 35,000 employees are now teleworkers: 3,00 full-time teleworkers and the remaining 9,000 part-time.

Nortel Networks teleworkers are typically Executives/Managers, Sales and Marketing "Road Warriors", Technical Support staff, Project Managers, Software Developers and Training Instructors.

One of the key benefits is increased productivity: 94% of teleworkers report increased productivity, and 65% of managers agreed with this.  The average increase in productivity reported is 15-20%.  Nortel have calculated that 15% is equivalent to 1.2 hours per day.  Applied to the 3,000 full-time teleworkers this works out at $450,000 per day in increased productivity.

Measuring staff attitudes, Nortel have found that teleworkers are 11% more satisfied and 41% more motivated than their non-teleworking colleagues.

Productivity and work-life balance

One such satisfied worker is Margaret Rodwell. It’s over nine years now since Margaret worked in an office. And it’s something that she doesn’t miss at all. Since becoming one of the first generation of flexible workers at Nortel Networks, Margaret has worked primarily at home, where she has been able to improve her work/life balance whilst increasing productivity. Little wonder, then, that she is so happy with the arrangement.

 “When I first started working from home, I had a very young baby and lived over an hour’s drive from the office. It was the ideal arrangement for me. I still relish the fact that I don’t have to commute in every day, and as I’ve become more accustomed to the role and freedom that home-working gives me, I’ve become far more flexible too.”

Whilst the telephone is always on, and her email always available, Margaret confesses to quite often starting work at 7 in the morning, or finishing projects off in the evening, perhaps after her children have gone to bed. However, that’s not to say she is chained to the desk: for instance, as the school year comes to an end, she will be attending school sports day without needing to take time off. She is able to pick her children up from school and enjoy their company on a daily basis.

Responding to changing laws

Recognising the importance of such family life, it’s opportunities like this that the UK government has highlighted in the recent flexible working legislation. Employers now have an obligation to consider applications to work flexibly from any parent with children under the age of 6. Many employers are concerned about the potential negative impact on their workers’ productivity, but for Margaret, the opposite has proved true.

“I think that working from home has really proved of value to the company. There are fewer distractions whilst I’m at work – people have to make a conscious decision to contact me, and vice versa, so telephone calls tend to be very focused. I don’t have to worry about travelling to meetings, but instead tend to have conference calls, and even when I’m on them I can keep an eye on e-mail. I can work late, and talk to colleagues in other time zones, without it being a big problem, and above all I can work when I don’t feel 100%. In the last nine years, I’ve only had one or two sick days; there have been several more occasions, though, where I wouldn’t have made it in to the office, or managed a full day. Working from home, however, I can stay in touch by email or by phone, and make sure any urgent tasks are accomplished.”

A further, perhaps unexpected, advantage comes in terms of the role Margaret performs. As a Sales Compensation Analyst, a great deal of her work involves dealing with highly sensitive information. “Working from home actually provides security benefits: access to the applications and information I work with is always controlled, but people might see something on screen in an office.” It is perhaps no coincidence then that many of the other people in Margaret’s team are also remote workers.

Having home based workers can save a company over £13,000 per year, with home based workers costing on average £2,000 per year, whereas an office based worker costs on average £15,500 to be based in the office.

Providing the technical platform

The Contivity Secure VPN Client is used widely across Nortel Networks to connect workers like Margaret to corporate applications. Though where possible Nortel Networks uses DSL connections, Margaret is still using the ISDN line installed some 9 years ago. That hasn’t proved a problem at all, even though access to applications can, on occasions, be a little slower than it might be on a campus network.

If there are any problems with the remote service, Margaret can gain helpdesk support by dialling exactly the same number as her office-based colleagues, and benefit from remote diagnostics and fixes. “There have only been a couple of occasions when that hasn’t been sufficient,” she confirms, “and I had to take my laptop into Maidenhead.”

The nearest Nortel Networks office is Maidenhead, where Margaret visits every month or two for face-to-face meetings – something that Nortel Networks employees are ever more comfortable without. That not only saves money, but also keeps travel and disruption to a minimum.

The experience gained by Nortel Networks over the last few years will prove invaluable, in Margaret’s eyes, when the company comes to dealing with the new legislation.

 “We’ve spent a lot of time developing the policies and understanding how people work, and the company is very careful to assess whether or not both the employee and the organisation as a whole will benefit from enabling particular individuals to work flexibly. That means we will be well equipped to respond to the new laws and ensure we’re making the most out of them.”

What’s more important still is the fact that this experience and knowledge will prove invaluable in implementing flexible solutions for others, built around the powerful Contivity software. With literally hundreds of flexible, mobile, home and remote workers around the UK, and thousands around Europe, Nortel Networks is well placed to help organisations understand how they can take maximum advantage of flexible working to empower their staff, meet regulatory requirements and increase productivity.


Further info

While for some companies telework remains something of a novelty, others have around a decade's worth of experience with it.

Here we present a case study of the impact of telework at Nortel Networks.  And we include the reflections of one particular teleworker with over 9 years telework experience.

For further information, contact Andrew Walker-Okeover, Tel: +44 (0)20 73091007

or visit the Nortel Networks website.




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