Agencies are increasingly comfortable with telework, but at least one expert thinks the concept may soon be a thing of the past.
Telework is no longer the hard sell it used to be. Since the passage of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, more government agencies have steadily made progress and adopted telework not only as a way to save money but to support work-life balance, according to panelists who took part in a discussion hosted by the Telework Exchange.
With December marking the one-year anniversary of the passage of the telework legislation, participants in the panel discussion, called “One Year Later: Status of Federal Telework,” gave a progress update with some impressive numbers to back it all up. The Library of Congress, for example, has seen 300 percent growth in telework count over the past 18 months, said Baha Akpinar, telework expansion program manager at the library’s Office of Strategic Initiatives/Information Technology Services.
How to be a telework winner
Currently, nearly 600 employees telework in various degrees, with the majority doing so 2 day to 4 days per pay period. Now, the focus is on results and outcomes, not seat time, Akpinar noted.
“We’re no longer in the experimental pilot mode,” he pointed out, adding that productivity increases of 20 percent to 30 percent have been noted. Not only that: Managers and employees alike have reported high satisfaction levels.
To expand on the ongoing telework efforts at the library, 2012 will see more implementation of cloud-based apps and enhanced collaboration tools. The library will also launch pilot programs for office sharing and hoteling, as well as continue pursuing overall savings. One part of the agencywide belt-tightening includes the “one-PC-per-user” policy,” which represents “tremendous savings,” Akpinar said.
However, the concept of telework could soon be history, said Jason M. Morwick, business operations manager at Cisco’s Six Sigma Center of Excellence. Instead of telework and teleworkers, the terminology is likely to shift to "mobility" and "mobile workers." Teleworkers are still, conceptually at least, tied to a workplace, just one that's outside of the office. "Mobility," empowered by smart phones and other portable devices, connotes a wider range of choices and more freedom.
His advice for persuading managers to consider telework: Stress tangible business value and point out the importance of having continuity-of-operations plans in place well before another “snowtastrophe” happens, he said.
At the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration within the Treasury Department, 83 percent of the 826 employees telework, CIO George Jakabcin said. The agency is using telework not only as a means to save money but as recruitment and retention incentives, and to support a healthy work-life balance, he added.
To adapt to the news ways of telework was “a bit of learning curve,” he said. But the end results have shown that all the effort paid off: Employee morale has been a “very big win,” Jakabcin said, and satisfaction levels are an all-time high, possibly thanks to telework adoption.
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