Agency leaders, advocates see tipping point on telework

Federal officials, telework experts say government is ripe for making telework routine

After more than a decade of talk, the federal government may be ready to leap into telework.

At a town hall event hosted by the advocacy group Telework Exchange, federal officials and telework experts said the government is ripe for making telework a normal part of its work routine, rather than a neglected relative of normal on-site productivity.

The fact that a compromise version of the Telework Improvements Act of 2010 passed the Senate during the previous week didn’t hurt the upbeat predictions of the speakers. That measure, for the first time, would require agencies to develop detailed telework plans and authorize all eligible employees to telework 20 percent of their working hours.

Speakers at the event included Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and General Services Administration Administrator Martha Johnson.


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Johnson, speaking on productivity gains, said efforts at GSA have shown a “200-1,500 percent return on the initial technological investment after adopting a telework system.” Telework also cut employee fuel costs by about 39 percent, according to one study Johnson cited.

Johnson mentioned telework’s promise of cost savings and greater productivity, and said it is crucial to the government’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

Telework “significantly reduces our own footprint both in employee commuting and in office space requirements,” Johnson said. “It also teaches us how to position our governmentwide policies to best reduce the footprint across government.”

“My first GSA experience was teleworking,” Johnson remarked, in reference to her first days in office. “I was sworn in by phone from my kitchen during the blizzard last winter. So, telework is still ‘who I am,’ and it is also for GSA about ‘who we are.’ ”

The telework bill is in the House, and the Telework Exchange and other backers are optimistic it will pass before year's end.

 

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