Leadership in Higher Education in Adopting a Telecommuting Program

Leadership in Higher Education in Adopting a Telecommuting Program

P. J. Snodgrass (University of Tennessee, USA) and Ernest W. Brewer (University of Tennessee, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0062-1.ch008
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This chapter explored the perceived motivators and constraints that influence adoption of a telecommuting program at higher education institutions. Participants were 102 members of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) from 11 southern states. Sixty-four participants completed a 4-part survey via the World Wide Web; 38 participants completed the survey by mail. Both adopters and non-adopters of telecommuting programs identified that the primary motivator for adopting a telecommuting program was improvement of overall benefits to employees. Whereas adopters reported that cost of implementation was the primary constraint to adopting a telecommuting program, non-adopters reported a variety of other factors as the primary constraint. Results of this study have implications for implementation of and research on telecommuting programs in higher education.
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Nilles (1998) coined the term “telecommuting” while conducting research for energy conservation during the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s. Since the 1970s, the number of telecommuters as well as interest in offering telecommuting as a viable management option has risen steadily. Thompson (1999) reported that a 1995 survey indicated that almost two thirds of all Fortune 1000 companies had a telecommuting program in place, although only a small percentage of those programs were formal. The majority of companies offered telecommuting as an ad hoc option for selected employees. Companies offering formal telecommuting programs have included Apple Computer, Bell Atlantic, Boeing, CISCO Systems, Compaq, IBM, Intel, MCI Communications, Novell, Oracle, Pacific Bell, and many others (Langhoff, 1999).

As indicated by Langhoff’s (1999) list, high-tech and information technology (IT) organizations have been the first to embrace telecommuting. Higher education institutions—with a history of being slow to adopt innovative programs—have fallen behind corporate America in adopting telecommuting programs. A search of the literature yielded just one study—Goldberg’s 1993 research—that examined telecommuting program adoption in higher education. Because higher education institutions generally have structures and levels of complexity not found in business and industry, there might be differences in factors influencing adoption of new programs such as telecommuting as well. Therefore, research addressing telecommuting program adoption in higher education is needed. This study takes a step toward filling that void by exploring motivators and constraints to adopting a telecommuting program at higher education institutions.

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