Question of the Week: Does Telework Lead to Outsourcing?

While talking to people and reading many of the negative online comments about telework, I hear and see a recurring paranoia about the possible connection between telework and outsourcing.  The question goes something like this: if I can do my job from home or any other location, can’t someone else in a low-cost country also do my job?  In the minds of many workers, telework or telecommuting is  a ploy by management to prepare to ship jobs overseas.   Personally, I believe these fears  are unfounded.  In fact there is no data or evidence that shows any sort of correlation between telework and outsourcing.  However, given the tough economic  environment I can understand the heightened sensitivity around job security.

When people ask me this question in person, I usually have the following snarky response: do you really believe that showing up to a physical office location day after day is what’s preventing your job from being outsourced right now?  Do you believe your employment is based on your attendance record?  Don’t be naïve.  Theoretically, if you are a remote worker, mobile worker, or fulltime telecommuter, it may be possible for someone 13,000 miles away to also do your job. But, the same can be said for most office workers too. 

 Believe it or not, the management in most organizations make rational, informed, strategic decisions.  Doing away with your position is not done on a whim.  Organizations make decisions on a number of factors or financial models.  In many organizations, decision makers may evaluate the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a given process to determine whether or not to outsource it to a third party.  Even in a TCO model things such as regulations, exchange rates, and even public perception may play a factor.  And let’s not forget performance and outputs.  Cutting costs may be at the top of management’s to-do list but it’s not done (or at least not consciously done) at the expense of meeting performance targets. 

Whether you telework or not, you are competing in a global, virtual market which means your role will always be compared to competing alternatives.    So what can you do?  Teleworking allows employees to be more productive, to do more, and ultimately add more value.  And adding more value may ultimately be the best job security.


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