Warkworth teleworking centre slow to catch on

Interest in setting up a teleworking centre in Warkworth has been disappointing, despite a positive feasibility study on the idea. Community group Warkworth In Focus commissioned a survey of 1300 Auckland and North Shore businesses to gauge whether they would be interested in using staff based at a proposed teleworking/telecommuting centre in Warkworth.

Interest in setting up a teleworking centre in Warkworth has been disappointing, despite a positive feasibility study on the idea.

Community group Warkworth In Focus commissioned a survey of 1300 Auckland and North Shore businesses to gauge whether they would be interested in using staff based at a proposed teleworking/telecommuting centre in Warkworth.

The results are presented in a feasibility study, which concludes there is strong Warkworth community support for the idea. It also says there was a positive response and a high level of acceptance from North Shore and Auckland businesses.

Just 5% of businesses surveyed responded, but consultant Ulrich Buhs of Quality Management Systems, which carried out the survey, says that percentage is “satisfactory”.

The results have been put to the public to find people wanting to run a teleworking centre, but so far there has not been a lot of interest.

Warkworth In Focus chairperson Dorothy Goudie, says the feasibility study showed the concept was promising. However, there were only 10 people at a meeting to discuss the idea two weeks ago, which was disappointing.

“Two local people expressed some interest in it, but whether it will go on from there, I don’t know.”

While Goudie believes it will get off the ground eventually, she suspects it will be a year or two before people are ready for the concept. Until someone takes the project up, it will “sit on the back shelf”.

Overseas, teleworking is common. In the United States more than 11 million people work at home at least one day a week, and 68% of companies now allow employees to telecommute.

Last year the Atlanta Olympics spawned the largest telecommuting experiment in history.

With the influx of two million visitors to the seven-square-mile Olympic Ring in Atlanta, the city had to reduce the number of people commuting to work by 25%.

Of the companies that tried tele-commuting, 97% recommended it as an alternative after the Olympics were over.

Goudie says the concept takes “a little bit of getting to grips with”. Warkworth In Focus had hoped the centre would run like a community co-op, but Goudie says it is more likely that it will operate as a business.

The feasibility study says the cost of commuting from Warkworth to Auckland could be as high as almost $20,000 a year.

A centrally located telecommuting centre would eliminate such costs and the added stress of commuting.

Businesses that responded to the survey were interested in teleworkers mainly in word processing, data entry, research and desktop publishing.

Concerns raised included issues of confidentiality, problems with reduced personal contact and rapport, and management control being affected.

The report states that in setting up a centre, there would be minimum fixed costs of between $27,000 and $32,000, plus equipment costs of between $20,000 and $50,000.

Among the potential funding sources were local government, business development boards, educational institutions, sponsorships, work contracts, membership fees and workspace rental.

The study was funded by the Department of Labour’s community employment group.

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