Telework and Management in Public Organizations

Telework and Management in Public Organizations

Ángel Belzunegui Eraso, Inmaculada Pastor Gosálbez
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch523
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In this chapter we discuss the implementation of telework in public administration (henceforth PA) as a new work arrangement that can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of services provided by public organizations. As a PA resource, telework has developed in parallel with electronic administration and electronic management. One important question, however, concerns the possible reasons why telework should be introduced in PA administrative processes.

From a managerial perspective, analyses of the introduction of electronic administration and telework in PA are motivated by the need to increase effectiveness and efficiency by: (1) making the PA structure more flexible, thus reducing costs, (2) streamlining the provision of public services, (3) extending the coverage of services to individuals that have problems accessing them, and (4) increasing the quality of the service and raising the public’s level of satisfaction with it.

The widespread introduction of communication technologies in PA means that many routine tasks of public organizations can now be done remotely and online. In this chapter we describe the importance of telework in public organizations, make recommendations for its introduction, and discuss some lessons learned from its incorporation in a number of public agencies.

Analyses of PA procedures and structures have demonstrated the disadvantages of an overly-rigid bureaucratic model and led to calls for alternatives from the so-called New Public Management (Christensen & Lægreid, 2001; Barzelay, 2001; Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2000; Olsen, 2006). In response to these calls for review and improvement, experiments to implement telework and electronic administration have required process innovations that have generally led to improvements in both the quality of the PA’s internal procedures and the quality of the service provided. Some of these innovations coincide with the approach outlined in New Public Management, namely: (a) less paperwork, (b) fewer lines of hierarchy, (c) more flexible administrative procedures, and (d) better use of available talent.

In the first section of this chapter we describe the background, the context in which telework has developed in PA (the new economy and the bureaucratic model of administration). In the second section we discuss the New Public Management approach in relation to telework and demonstrate how telework can help transform an organization. In the third section we analyze telework as an organizational innovation. In the fourth section we make several recommendations on how telework should be implemented in public administration and highlight some of the lessons that have been learned in organizations where it has been implemented. In the final section we draw several conclusions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

E- Government: A new form of public administration, based on the interactive use of information and communication technology (the Internet), with the dual aim of providing better services for citizens and businesses, as well as improving the internal processes of public organizations. This involves the optimization of the internal management of organizations and the provision of electronic services ( Lara & Martínez Usero, 2002 ).

Organizational Innovation: Organizational innovation is understood to encompass processes which lead to the establishment or adoption of new production and management models, not only for production but also for tangible and intangible resources. The organizational innovation concept is part of the concept of innovation and development, and accentuates new ideas and the propensity for change within organizations. This is also called process innovation and includes expenditures for innovation and development in the calculation of cost.

E- Administration: The electronic administration refers to mechanisms which convert what in a traditional office are paper processes into electronic processes, with the goal being to create a paperless office. This is an ICT tool, with the goal being to improve productivity and performance in the organizations.

Telework: A type of work and/or provision of services done remotely, at a distance, and online using computer and telematics technologies. Telework allows workers to work at home, from shared facilities, at customer sites, or via any platform that has the required technologies.

Network Organization: Organizational structures in the form of a network of shared tangible and intangible resources that are formed to achieve specific or general objectives. These organizations are more horizontally structured based on the relevance of the roles played by the parties in the structure.

Organizational Structure: This is a social system designed to achieve goals and objectives through human resources and the management of talent, resources and specific designs that generally improve efficiency and effectiveness. Organizational structure is composed of interrelated subsystems that fulfill specialized functions.

Working Conditions: Set of conditions for work performed which is subject to any written or oral contract. This includes work schedule, compensation, rest and holiday time, workload and other organizational conditions that comprise the work relationship.

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