Survey: Feds faster to adopt telework than private sector

CDW-G Federal Telework Report

Federal agencies are beating the private sector in adopting telework through legislation, continuity of operations planning and employee enthusiasm.

Government agencies have been encouraged to adopt teleworking more rapidly than private-sector companies through policy development and established standards, according to a survey of 2,197 public and private-sector employees by CDW-Government Inc. of Vernon Hills, Ill.

In 2000, Congress passed a law requiring agencies to let eligible employees telework. Five years later, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) moved numerous Defense Department offices, which motivated many of these agencies to encourage teleworking in order to retain workers unwilling to move or commute further to work, said Robert Green, director of CDW-G’s civilian sales.

Policies also have eliminated excuses for federal managers to restrict teleworking, as more than half of federal employees are eligible to telework. In contrast, fewer than 16 percent of private-sector employees are actually given the opportunity, the survey found.

“It was surprising to see that the private sector is so far behind,” Green said. “It isn’t a surprise that [teleworking] is growing in government, and with continuity of operations and things of that nature, the government is much more prepared to withstand disasters [than the private sector].”

Agencies also are ahead of the private sector in continuity of operations planning (COOP). The survey found that 75 percent of federal employees could continue working via telework if their offices closed due to a man-made or natural disasters, while only 33 percent of private-sector employees voiced confidence in their companies’ abilities to function out of the office.

In addition to policy development and COOP, agencies continue to update their technical IT support to better cater to teleworkers.

In the last two years, the percentage of agencies that have a plan in place to provide technical IT support to teleworkers rose to 58 percent from 33 percent.

Despite agencies’ technical support expansion for teleworkers, the survey highlighted three IT hurdles for the feds to clear: security, productivity and hardware/software requirements.

Green said the government is making sure agencies have the bandwidth and network access to support telework without slowing productivity, and updating help-desk support to address remote access concerns.

Amid all of this work, security continues to be the main concern hindering telework growth, he added.

Federal employees said that 64 percent of agencies are securing their networks through firewalls, but only 45 percent of these employees reported using encrypted networks for telework. Other technologies mentioned in the survey were antivirus software, secure sockets layer protection, network monitoring, intrusion/detection/prevention, certification and accreditation tools and biometrics.

Agencies also are improving employee productivity and support, and consequently, teleworking is growing fast, Green said.

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