Fuzzy pink slippers, bathrobe and coffee in hand is not the way Theresa Campbell wants people to think of her new work conditions. In fact, Campbell, Saskatoon Health Region’s policy consultant is adamant that the stererotypical working-from-home situation is just that – a stereotype. “I’m in control of my work space. I’m more productive because I can focus more and there are fewer interruptions. I love it” she says about her participation in the Region’s Telework project.
Teleworking is the name of the project which has some Health Region employees working from home. The Region provides the employees with a laptop, voice over internet phones, a headset, basic office supplies and a printer, if required. It’s been run as a pilot project since May 2010 when a small group of people were selected to try the venture.

“Teleworking isn’t for everyone,” says Grant Sommerfeld, Director of Facilities and Engineering Services and project sponsor. Sommerfeld developed the policy for teleworking 14 years ago when he worked in organization development for Workers Compensation Board in Alberta. “You need the right job, the right person and the right Telework space.” To qualify for Telework, a person’s job description must be compatible with an off-site situation. Examples include work that can be done without a lot of face-to-face contact, for example – people who are information or data mangers and are able to do their work over the computer or over the phone.

Theresa Campbell works from her home office in the Health Region’s teleworking pilot

Good teleworkers are people who are self-motivated, reliable and trustworthy; able to maintain good lines of communication and have been on the job long enough to know the ins and outs of the organization. They also have to have proven competence and high performance.

The Health Region could conceivably free up large amounts of leased office space and allow for those leases to end thus saving thousands of dollars a month. Clinical space occupied by offices could also be freed up in acute care centres. Sommerfeld also emphasizes the need for managers to change the way work is managed in a teleworking environment. “We have to move from managing by physical presence to managing by results.” Two of Sommerfeld’s colleagues work from home. “I haven’t noticed any difference in my ability to reach them by phone or e-mail. They’re still getting their work done. They’re happier working from home and I’m a happy client.”

The advantages for the Teleworker can also be significant. “My family has noticed a real difference,” says Campbell. “I’ve reduced my commute time by about 20 hours per month. It’s the difference between having breakfast with my kids everyday before they go to daycare.”

The results of the pilot project will go to Senior Leadership Team for the final decision on whether to implement Teleworking later this fall.