New perspectives on flexible working : a case study of teleworking, part of a flexible working initiative at Lloyd's of London
The subject of this thesis is teleworking as one of the genus of flexible working options for new economy service organisations. The research took the form of a multi-dimensional case study at Lloyd's Policy Signing Office (LPSO) which is the largest profit centre division of the Corporation of Lloyd's. The Corporation is responsible for the international insurance market, Lloyd's of London. LPSO employs 400 people and provides professional support services to its customers being the Lloyd's syndicates, Insurance Brokers and Managing Agencies that make up the market. The study involves examination of the business case for teleworking from the perspective of all the principal constituencies involved. The findings of previous research in relation to costs and benefits, staff productivity, staff retention and absenteeism levels are critically examined. Similarly the employee perspective in relation to the demand for teleworking, their job satisfaction and perception of work-life balance are also investigated within the context of existing research. The theory paradigms used to provide the structure to the research are principally the theory of the flexible firm, use of Balanced Score Card and from the Operational Research arena, use of six sigma methodology. The financial case for teleworking is also examined in detail. The fact that LPSO teleworkers perform largely the same tasks as their office based colleagues, and both groups work within the same management and process structure is a feature unusual in existing studies. Also, the level of access to and degree of co-operation from within Lloyd's made it possible to examine the case to a degree not found in existing research into any comparable organisation. The investigation found higher levels of productivity for teleworkers, lower levels of unplanned absence, and some evidence of a propensity to stay with LPSO because of the availability of teleworking. Teleworkers reported levels of work and life satisfaction that were never lower than office based colleagues and higher in some key respects. This was despite the fact that teleworkers feared that they might be disadvantaged in terms of career development and access to training. The study found that the financial pay-back for introducing teleworking was near neutral. Further, it was found that for LPSO higher levels of productivity might not be attributable solely to teleworking per se. Improved productivity might also arise because of the way in which work was distributed and output measured for teleworkers. Adopting comparable distribution and measurement for office based staff was potentially a viable option for LPSO management. Therefore, despite the significant increase in the productivity of teleworkers compared to their office base colleagues the resources required to introduce teleworking might be better applied to other means of improving per capita efficiency with the effects on employees' work-life balance being only an incidental by-product.