Think of it as 'Teleworking 2.0'

Teleworking needn't involve presenting staff and employers with a stark choice between trudging into an office or working from home, an evangelist says.

Several technology companies joined with the Government to launch the country's first ever "teleworking week" today.

But Gordon Falconer, director of urban innovation at networking company Cisco, said modern concepts of smart working involved "blurring the lines" of both time and space.

Falconer, who is based in Singapore, said the "cult of the office-based 9 to 5" was incredibly strong in Asia.

But South Korea and Amsterdam were leading the way by setting up hundreds of "smart hubs" in residential areas where people could work remotely, socialise and "drink good coffee".

"There are more than 100 smart work centres dotted around Amsterdam. The whole idea was to bring work to the suburbs, to a pleasant environment where you are away from the kids."

Communications Minister Amy Adams said teleworking had the potential to reduce fuel consumption and traffic congestion and to even-out the cost of housing.

The Christchurch earthquake also hammered home "in just 22 seconds" the importance of businesses providing remote access to the workplace.

The $3.5 billion ultrafast broadband network would help, she said.

However, Adams said it was concerning that while one survey suggested 68 per cent of employees found the idea of working from home appealing, only 14 per cent of employers were considering providing greater workplace flexibility over the next five years.

As part of Telework Week, a small group of Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry staff who usually commute into Wellington from the Wairarapa, Kapiti Coast and the Hutt Valley would be working from home using ministry-supplied laptops, she said.

Antony Welton, human resources director at Vodafone New Zealand - another of Telework Week's sponsors - said that the biggest barrier to teleworking was not the motivation of staff, but the leadership skills of managers.

"It is about the skills and confidence of managers to be able to manage to 'outcomes'."

Cisco New Zealand chief executive Geoff Lawrie said there were no statistics on how prevalent teleworking was in New Zealand. However, a website had been set up for Telework Week where businesses and individuals could signal support and record their initiatives, which could help fill that void.

"For the last 100 years people have been turning up at the office five days a week, every week, because that was what was needed to get the work done," Lawrie said.

"For the first time in human history we can now connect, communicate and collaborate pretty much from anywhere, any time. It ushers in a fundamental change in the nature of work, the social fabric of our cities and the infrastructure that supports them."