Movement to telework gaining a foothold in federal agencies
Federal agencies are leading the way in telecommuting, according to the Alexandria, Va.-based Telework Exchange’s (TE) report, “Bank on Telework: The Telework Week 2012 Impact and Year-over-Year Benchmark.” The report analyzes Telework Week, a promotion that encourages employees to telework during the week of March 5-9. More than 71,000 employees across the U.S. pledged to telework during the event — an 80 percent increase from Telework Week 2011. Federal participation grew in 2012, with 94 percent of pledges representing federal agencies and staffers.
“Telework is becoming a more common workplace practice than ever before,” Telework Exchange General Manager Cindy Auten told Govpro. “As the government faces shrinking budgets and growing demands for efficiency, telework offers a work structure that supports productive and resilient operations. Additionally, our culture will continue to become more mobile, and as such, we need to be prepared to support remote workers and workers on the go.”
If all Telework Week pledges teleworked for a single year, Auten said, they would save $282 million in commuting costs alone. If all eligible federal employees teleworked twice a week for one year, they would save $5 billion in commuting costs. On average, federal agency participants commute 48 miles roundtrip to the office, according to the benchmark report.
Some barriers for federal teleworkers
Challenges remain for some federal agencies in their move toward establishing a wider adoption of telework, Auten noted. “From an IT standpoint, the conversation falls along the lines of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) versus government-furnished,” Auten said. “Obviously, security is always top of the mind. But the real challenges are in the culture, the change of telework, how do you ensure managers can manage the workforce and feel comfortable in that environment?”
In spite of the barriers, Auten said she expects to see greater adoption of telework and more pilot programs to explore how different technologies can assist agencies and staffers meet their mission through teleworking.
State governments took part in the 2012 Telework Week promotion. Virginia had 2,327 telework pledges from more than 100 departments participate in Telework Week 2012.
“We continue to find that telework supports our goals of increased employee productivity and engagement; business continuity readiness; along with reduced traffic and wear and tear on public transportation,” said Sara Wilson, director for human resource management in the Virginia state government.
The terms “telework,” “telecommuting,” “flexible workplace,” “remote work,” “virtual work” and “mobile work” are all used to refer to work done outside of the traditional on-site work environment.
Interested in telecommuting trends in government? Check back soon with Govpro. We will summarize results of our new survey that discusses attitudes toward telecommuting among government managers and employees.