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Telework and internal corporate social responsibility: Insights from New Zealand back-office personnel during COVID-19

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This research explores the demand for and drivers of telecommuting among New Zealand back office staff post-pandemic. Their willingness to contribute their time and ideas to this research was truly appreciated.

Introduction

  • Background
  • The Rationale of this Research
  • Research Interest
  • Research Objectives and Questions
  • Structure of the Research

To explore the attitudes of New Zealand back office staff towards telecommuting as an internal social responsibility practice during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future. What were the attitudes of New Zealand back office staff towards telecommuting as an internal social responsibility practice during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the future.

Literature Review

Introduction

The Concept of Telework

The International Labor Organization defines teleworking as the use of technologies such as smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers to work outside the employer's office (Bautista-Bernal et al., 2021). Under a part-time telecommuting job, the employee performs their duties for a limited number of days per week, with a portion of the work performed from the office.

Evolution of Telework

For example, in New Zealand, about 40% of the total workforce quickly shifted from traditional office locations to telecommuting (Green et al., 2020). However, despite the initial identification of negative impacts, research showed an increasing demand for remote work among employees after the COVID-19 pandemic (Babapour Chafi et al., 2022; Brunelle & Fortin, 2021; Grzegorczyk et al., 2021).

Telework in New Zealand Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Recent data suggests that aspiration for telecommuting jobs in New Zealand after the COVID-19 pandemic remains higher than it was before COVID-19. While the studies do not directly provide information on actual telecommuting in New Zealand, their findings suggest that the proportion of employees telecommuting remains high following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Benefits and Challenges of Telework

  • Job Satisfaction
  • Work-life Balance
    • Telework and Commuting
    • Job Flexibility
    • Telework and Work-life Boundaries
  • Productivity
  • Employee Autonomy
  • Duration and Extent of Telework
  • Social Isolation
  • OHS and Well-being

Such autonomy can potentially contribute to a higher sense of job control, which is positively associated with job satisfaction (Beauregard et al., 2019; Tudu & Singh, 2022). Results showed that administrative support was positively related to job satisfaction and negatively associated with psychological strain (Bentley et al., 2016).

Telework and CSR

Research suggests that employee preferences can influence the mental health consequences of telecommuting, underscoring the importance of considering individual employee needs and preferences when implementing telecommuting policies (Adamovic, 2022; Athanasiadou & Theriou, 2021; Beckel & Fisher, 2022; Otsuka et al., 2021) Therefore, it is crucial to consider both the potential benefits and risks of telecommuting, as well as employees' personal preferences. It is necessary to develop and implement appropriate strategies to mitigate any negative impact on the mental health and safety and well-being of employees.

Concept of CSR

In the 1960s, most scientists agreed that organizations and communities are closely related, and for the development of a healthy organization, the community in which this organization operates must also be healthy (Beglari, 2022). The development of CSR in the 21st century has been shaped by factors such as globalization, the advancement of ICT, and public awareness of the impact of organizations on communities and the environment (Wampole, 2022).

Internal CSR

  • Relationship Between CSR and Human Resource Management
  • OHS
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Work-life Balance

Organizations with a strong CSR program can provide employees with better job satisfaction and motivation (Santana et al., 2020). Research suggests that CSR initiatives have a significant impact on employee job satisfaction (Adu-Gyamfi et al., 2021; Obeidat et al., 2018).

The Potential Role of Internal CSR for Successful Telework

Corporate culture-related CSR policies can include providing opportunities for team building and social interaction, promoting open communication channels and recognizing employee contributions (Rodríguez-Sánchez et al., 2020; Stoian et al., 2022) . CSR policies related to employee training may include providing relevant mentoring programs and resources, providing access to ICT support and promoting ongoing professional development opportunities (Gould et al., 2020; Onkila & Sarna, 2022).

Research Gaps

Overall, by implementing CSR policies related to the working environment for telecommuting employees, organizations can create a healthy and safe working environment, which in turn can increase employee job satisfaction and well-being. By addressing the identified gaps in the literature, this research has the potential to offer valuable insights to policy makers and organizations on the implementation of telecommuting and internal CSR policies to promote a more sustainable organization and meet the expectations of internal stakeholders.

Research Method

  • Introduction
  • Research Design
  • Research Paradigm
  • Research Methodology
  • Data Collections Tools
  • Research Participants
  • Recruitment and Data Collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Ethical Considerations
  • Chapter Summary

The combination of these two question types in the questionnaire allowed the researcher to obtain a well-rounded understanding of the participants' perspectives and opinions (Taherdoost, 2019). To mitigate these limitations, the researcher included screening questions at the beginning of the questionnaire. The last page of the questionnaire expressed their gratitude to the participants for their time and willingness to engage in this research.

The thematic analysis enabled a better understanding of participants' experiences, attitudes and perspectives regarding telework (Williams, 2007).

Analysis and Findings

Dataset Pre-processing

The researcher then reviewed the text document and identified key phrases and ideas that related to the research objectives. These phrases and ideas were assigned codes, which were then grouped into categories based on their relationship to interview questions or themes that emerged from the data. A codebook was created listing all codes and categories used in the analysis, along with their definitions and examples.

Questionnaire Results

  • Demographic Characteristics
  • Telework Availability and Intensity Rate Before and After the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Attitudes and Desire to Telework
  • Benefits and Challenges of Telework
  • Summary of Findings Regarding Telework Demand and Its Drivers
  • Telework Impact on Work-life Balance and Job Satisfaction
  • Attitude to Telework as Internal CSR Extension
  • Summary of the Questionnaire Findings

The rate of telecommuting remained high even after the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic mandates, indicating a lasting impact on work arrangements and attitudes towards telecommuting. In conclusion, it appears that there would be a significant demand for telecommuting among participants following the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants mostly agreed that telecommuting was effective during the COVID-19 pandemic (M = 4.28), with a moderate difference in opinion (SD = 0.98).

The data show that participants have a positive perception of remote work as an internal CSR practice, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interviews Results

  • Telework Experience
  • Attitudes Towards Telework
  • Benefits of Telework
  • Challenges of Telework
  • Effect of Telework on Work-Life Balance
  • Effect of Telework on Job Satisfaction
  • Organisational Attractiveness
  • Preference for Traditional Office or Telework

The participants' telework experiences varied across different stages, including before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, most of the participating organizations have adopted a hybrid telework model following the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, participants (n=5) were open to the idea of ​​teleworking, while participants (n=3) had no strong feelings about it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the challenges associated with remote working, particularly in relation to isolation and reduced social interaction.

Summary

The analysis of the questionnaire results revealed that telecommuting is strongly desired by the participants after the COVID-19 pandemic. The interviews aimed to answer two research questions: the demand for telecommuting among New Zealand's back office staff following the COVID-19 pandemic and attitudes towards the impact of telecommuting on work-life balance and job satisfaction. The results revealed that before the COVID-19 pandemic, participants (n=5) had limited or no telecommuting experience, while (n=3) had occasional telecommuting experience.

However, telework policies were adopted by 100% of participating organizations after the COVID-19 pandemic, with a prevalence of hybrid telework models (n=8).

Discussion, Recommendations, and Conclusions

Introduction

Demand and Drivers for Telework among New Zealand Back-office Personnel

The preference for telecommuting is consistent with previous studies that found a growing trend towards telecommuting due to its benefits (Kwok et al., 2022; Mayer & Boston, 2022;. Several drivers contributed to the demand for telecommuting among New Zealand back-office workers, as identified by both quantitative and qualitative findings. Finally, higher productivity was another driver for the demand for telework among back-office workers in New Zealand.

Thus, the findings of this research confirm the existing literature that highlights the role of higher productivity as a driver of the increasing demand for telecommuting among New Zealand back office staff.

Impact of Telework on Work-life Balance and Job Satisfaction

  • Impact on Work-Life Balance
  • Impact on Job Satisfaction

Additionally, employees can create a designated workspace and set rules that help them separate work and personal life (Allen et al., 2021). This finding is consistent with previous studies that have reported positive correlations between telecommuting and job satisfaction (Beauregard et al., 2019; Brunelle & Fortin, 2021; Schall, 2019). Autonomy and trust can increase employee motivation and commitment, which, in turn, can positively affect job satisfaction (Even, 2020; Ngamkroeckjoti et al., 2022).

Therefore, it is essential for organizations to develop strategies that promote social connections and facilitate face-to-face interactions between teleworkers to promote job satisfaction and prevent negative consequences such as isolation (Beauregard et al., 2019).

Telework as an Internal CSR Extension

These findings support the idea that remote work can contribute to an organization's reputation and long-term success by addressing internal CSR objectives (Rodríguez-Sánchez et al., 2020; Stoian et al., 2022). Additionally, organizations that offer telecommuting options can attract a wider talent pool and foster diversity, an important aspect of internal CSR (Mayo et al., 2016). In conclusion, the findings provided evidence that telecommuting can be considered an extension of internal CSR.

By integrating telecommuting into their internal CSR strategies, organizations can address key components of internal corporate responsibility, ultimately contributing to their reputation and long-term success (Stoian et al., 2022).

Recommendations for Managers

Telecommuting has been shown to improve work-life balance, job satisfaction and work environment, which can ultimately contribute to higher employee engagement, better performance and increased retention rates (Sarbu, 2018; Thompson et al., 2022). This may involve fostering a culture of trust, communication and collaboration, which can help build a sense of community and connection among teleworking employees (Jämsen et al., 2022; Rogers, 2022). Appropriate communication, support, and a sense of community can help employees who work remotely feel more connected and engaged, ultimately reducing feelings of social isolation during remote work (Graham et al., 2023; Rogers, 2022 ).

CSR policies related to employee training may include providing relevant tutoring programs and resources, providing access to IT support, and promoting ongoing professional development opportunities (Gould et al., 2020; Onkila & Sarna, 2022).

Contribution

Thus, incorporating employee training, IT support and work-life balance guidelines into internal CSR policies can increase the effectiveness of telecommuting and support employee well-being, which in turn can lead to greater job satisfaction. By adopting these recommendations, managers can ensure that their telecommuting initiatives are more successful and make a positive contribution to the well-being and job satisfaction of employees, which is ultimately in line with the objectives of internal CSR. Third, this study provides practical recommendations for managers/supervisors and organizations seeking to effectively implement teleworking policies, taking into account the potential impact on employee well-being and the role of CSR in shaping and monitoring such policies.

By offering actionable guidance, this research helps bridge the gap between theory and practice, enabling organizations to better navigate the challenges and benefits associated with teleworking.

Limitations and Future Research Opportunities

In addition, the cross-sectional design of this research, which collected data at a single point in time, may not have captured the dynamic nature of telework experiences and attitudes (Rindfleisch et al., 2008). Such research can help identify trends and shifts in telecommuting preferences as well as uncover any long-term impacts of telecommuting on work-life balance, job satisfaction and internal CSR. Finally, the concept of telecommuting as an internal CSR extension is still a new concept.

By addressing these limitations and exploring future research opportunities, scholars can continue to build a comprehensive understanding of telework and its implications for individuals, organizations, and society as a whole.

Conclusion

Impact of telecommuting during COVID-19 on student stress and job satisfaction [Dissertation, Walden University]. Working from home before, during and after the Covid-19 pandemic: implications for employees and organizations. COVID-19 and remote work: employee experiences in New Zealand [Master Thesis, Auckland University of Technology].

The relationship between social isolation, teleworking intensity levels, autonomy and job satisfaction during the Covid-19 pandemic. I believe that providing remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped my organization ensure employee safety and health. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped make my view of working from home more positive.

References

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