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Teleworking Feds Could Save $5 billion In Commuting Costs

March 1 2008 - A study by Telework Exchange(SM), a public-private partnership with a focus on telework in government, shows that while 96% of 664 Federal employees surveyed could be teleworking, only 20% are currently doing so.

Telework Eligibility Profile: Feds Fit the Bill, underwritten by TANDBERG, a global provider of telepresence, high-definition videoconferencing, and mobile video products and services also finds that Feds are telework friendly - according to their responses to the 'Telework Exchange Online Telework Eligibility Gizmo'. The Gizmo is a quiz-based calculator designed to determine employees' telework eligibility.

Main findings of the study included:

  • Knowledge is Power - While a third of Federal employees remain unaware of their agency’s telework program, respondents cited reducing commuting time/costs, maintaining work/life balance, and continuity of operations (COOP) as top telework benefits.
  • Ideal Telework World - Federal employees are telework friendly with almost four out of five of the 96% of respondents eligible for teleworking being eligible to do so full time.
  • Eligibility Deficit - 42% of survey respondents did not know if they were eligible to telework. But 90% of these were eligible to telework. The study estimates that if these employees could telework full time they would save $5 billion in commuting costs, sparing the environment 7.7 billion pounds of pollutants each year.
  • Fitting the Profile - Survey respondenst identified the following requirements for effective teleworking:
    - communicating via e-mail and phone,
    - remote access to an organization’s IT infrastructure,
    - a safe alternative work environment, and
    - ability to control one’s schedule to a significant degree.

Joel Brunson, president, TANDBERG Federal commented:

"The Federal government has been slow to adopt telework. However, with recruitment and retention benefits, growing traffic concerns, continuity of operations requirements, and increasing environmental awareness, we are finally reaching a tipping point. Telework will soon become a standard operating procedure in many Federal agencies."

"As the study indicates, the benefits for Feds’ wallets are staggering," said Stephen W.T. O’Keeffe, executive director, Telework Exchange. "Teleworking just three days a week translates to a 60% reduction in commuting costs - saving the average Federal employee nearly $6,000 annually. In fact, the Federal government telework deficit is equivalent to the gross domestic product of Jamaica. To offset the amount of CO2 emissions Feds disperse in the environment by commuting, we would need to plant 32 million trees a year. Let’s get these people off the roadways."

Management Resistance a Major Barrier for Teleworkers

In 2007 Telework Exchange(SM) found that management resistance was a major barrier to adoption of telework. "Face-to-Face with Management Reality - A Telework Research Report" was based on a survey of 214 Federal managers.

Key study findings included:

  • "Try It and You'll Like It" - Encouraging managers to telework is crucial to getting the system implemented.The study found that greater involvement produced more favorable attitudes. Managers who are teleworkers themselves or who supervise such employees are more positive than those who do not. Of those with direct experience, 66 per cent found teleworkers as productive as those based in the office.
  • "Reality Check" - Only 35 per cent of managers felt their agencies supported telework. The study found managers' perceptions of the indications for and benefits of telework were not aligned to those of their agencies, indicating the need for an education program to promote telework as a standard operating procedure. Managers tend to consider work-life balance and impact on recruitment and retention as major drivers. Agency priorities tend to be continuity of operations and pandemic planning. Managers rank anxiety about losing control over employees and productivity issues as the top disincentives to telework. The study found that managers did not consider security or funding concerns as significant inhibitors.
  • "Lost in Translation?" - About one-third (32 per cent) of Federal managers rated lack of face-to-face contact as the most significant communication challenge inherent in telework. A majority (61 per cent) acknowledged misinterpreting co-workers communicating via e-mail; 43 per cent by phone.

Darryl Perkinson, national president, FMA, said:

"The study highlights the disconnect between the perception of telework and the practicality of telework. While funding seems to be the least impediment, managers must find a balance between performance output and employee supervision before agencies can fully realize the benefits of telework."

Joel Brunson, president, TANDBERG Federal, commented:

"As the study indicates, telework is not a 'nice to have' anymore; it is critical to agencies' business continuity and productivity, as well as retaining a knowledgeable workforce and appealing to a new generation of employees interested in work-life balance. Agencies must focus on training and educating management on the role telework can play in the organization. Finally, agencies should provide the technology management needs to support a dispersed workforce."

Stephen W.T. O'Keeffe, executive director, Telework Exchange, added:

"We consistently hear that management is the main barrier to telework. Telework Exchange looks forward to engaging in dialogue with these managers to better understand their perceptions, and we are committed to working together with FMA to overcome the challenges to implementing telework."

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