Chapter 5: Discussion, Recommendations, and Conclusions
5.2 Demand and Drivers for Telework among New Zealand Back-office Personnel
Chapter 5: Discussion, Recommendations, and Conclusions
hybrid telework model, which combines telework and in-person collaboration. The quantitative findings of this research indicated that 82.2% of the respondents enjoyed teleworking, with a significant shift in telework availability and intensity rates after the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings showed that telework availability significantly increased, indicating a growth of more than 50%. Moreover, although the availability of telework has grown significantly, the desire to telework, reported by participants, is even higher. When participants were surveyed about their telework preferences, a considerable proportion of them favoured a hybrid telework model, with almost 70% indicating a preference for teleworking for 1-2 days or 3-4 days per week. Similarly, the qualitative findings also support this, with nine of ten of the interview’s participants expressing a preference for a hybrid telework model. These findings are consistent with the research of Smite et al. (2023), which underscores that hybrid telework models have become a prevalent trend across industries and countries as employers strive to cater to the flexibility needs of their workforce.
Similarly, the studies by Babapour Chafi et al. (2022) and Kwok et al. (2022) identified a significant growth in telework due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the prevalence of the hybrid telework model. In addition, four interview participants expressed that they would never return to the traditional office for a full-time schedule. This is similar to previous studies that found that many employees exhibit a preference for the flexibility and independence offered by telework and expressed reluctance to reject such benefits by reverting to the traditional office (Hewett, 2022;
Mayer & Boston, 2022; Pan & Shaheen, 2022).
Therefore, it can be inferred that there is a significant demand for telework, particularly the hybrid telework model, among New Zealand back-office personnel. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a substantial increase in the availability of telework, but the desire to telework is even higher among participants. Most participants preferred a hybrid telework model, indicating a preference
for the flexibility offered by telework while also valuing in-person collaboration. The preference for telework is consistent with previous studies that found a growing trend towards telework due to its benefits (Kwok et al., 2022; Mayer & Boston, 2022; Smite et al., 2023). Moreover, participants also expressed a reluctance to return to the traditional office for a full-time schedule, indicating a potential shift from the traditional office towards more flexible telework arrangements.
Several drivers contributed to the demand for telework among New Zealand back-office personnel, as identified by both quantitative and qualitative findings. These drivers include improved work-life balance, better work flexibility, reduced commuting time and costs, and higher productivity.
Firstly, the desire for better work flexibility emerged as one of the most significant drivers for telework demand among New Zealand's back-office personnel. The quantitative findings revealed that more then 85% of respondents identified flexibility as a significant benefit of telework. Similarly, the qualitative findings revealed that increased flexibility and control over their schedules were advantages benefits for all interview participants. These findings align with previous research by Thompson et al. (2022) and Caillier (2018), which underscored the importance of flexible telework schedules in employment practices, allowing employees to have more control over their time, location, and regime of work. Moreover, the findings are in line with the research of Sarbu (2018) and Thompson et al. (2022), which found that telework allows employees to take advantage of unscheduled time during the workday to attend to non-work tasks without having to sacrifice work time. In addition, the the research findings also corroborate the notion that telework enables employees to demonstrate greater adaptability in meeting the demands of employers (Beauregard et al., 2019). This adaptability allows employees to plan online appointments with international colleagues and customers in different time zones, further
emphasising the importance of telework flexibility. Thus, the findings of this research among New Zealand's back-office personnel highlight the significant role of work flexibility in driving telework demand, aligning with prior research that emphasises the benefits of flexible work schedules for both employees and employers.
The potential for improved work-life balance emerged as another significant driver for telework demand, with almost 80% of respondents stating that telework positively impacted work- life balance. The findings align with previous research that highlights the positive impact of telework on work-life balance (Beauregard et al., 2019; Schall, 2019; Shieh, 2019; Uzun, 2021).
As Mazur-Wierzbicka (2015) and Gołaszewska-Kaczan (2015) emphasised, employees have multiple social roles and need time to navigate between personal and professional responsibilities, the ability to merge both aspects of life and easily shift between them is crucial for achieving work- life balance. Similarly, Beauregard et al. (2019) found that employees with flexible telework arrangements reported better work-life balance, as they could align their work tasks with personal and family responsibilities. The qualitative findings further supported these findings, with participants expressing that telework allowed them to spend more time with their family, attend to personal responsibilities, and enjoy increased flexibility in managing their personal lives. These results emphasise the significant role that telework plays in facilitating work-life balance for New Zealand back-office personnel, further driving the demand for telework.
Thirdly, the reduction in commute time and costs also emerged as a key driver for telework demand. The quantitative revealed that almost 65% of participants identified less commuting as a benefit. The qualitative findings duplicated this sentiment, as participants highlighted the time and cost savings resulting by minimising the need for commuting. This is consistent with research by Chatterjee et al. (2020), Jones (2022), and Hook et al. (2020), which demonstrated that telework
could save employees significant time by reducing or eliminating commuting. Furthermore, the study by Pabilonia and Vernon (2021) found that the average teleworker saves approximately one hour per day by eliminating their daily commute. Similarly, Kazekami (2020) showed that telework could reduce work-related stress by removing the need for commuting every day. Thus, the research findings support the existing literature, further emphasising the importance of reduced commuting time and costs as critical drivers for the increasing demand for telework among New Zealand back-office personnel.
Finally, higher productivity was another driver for telework demand among New Zealand back-office personnel. The quantitative findings revealed that almost 40% of particpants identified higher productivity as a benefit of telework. Similarly, in the qualitative findings, three participants reported improved productivity as a significant benefit of teleworking. This is in line with studies conducted by Bailey and Kurland (2002), Gajendran and Harrison (2007), and Golden and Eddleston (2020), which linked telework to higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness in employees teleworking. Factors contributing to this enhanced productivity, as identified in the literature, include reduced distractions, increased autonomy, and a better ability to focus on tasks (Bailey & Kurland, 2002; Golden & Eddleston, 2020). Furthermore, the flexibility offered by telework, allowing employees to work during their most productive hours, has been found to contribute to increased productivity (Fonner & Roloff, 2010; Golden & Eddleston, 2020). Thus, this research findings corroborate with the existing literature, emphasising the role of higher productivity as a driver for the growing demand for telework among New Zealand back-office personnel.
In conclusion, this research demonstrates a significant demand for telework, particularly the hybrid telework model, among New Zealand back-office personnel. The findings reveal that
factors such as improved work-life balance, better work flexibility, reduced commuting time and costs, and higher productivity drive the demand for telework. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a substantial increase in the availability of telework, with a strong preference for the hybrid telework model. The preference for teleworking is consistent with previous studies that found a growing trend towards telework due to its benefits. As telework continues to be a popular work arrangement, it is crucial for organisations to consider these drivers when implementing telework policies and to ensure that they align with employees' needs and preferences.