Calculator takes the guesswork out of telework

How much would telework save your agency? A new tool helps estimate payback.

man teleworking

This man is saving his agency money, but how much? (Stock image)

Feds mulling over whether to introduce or alter existing telework initiatives have a new tool to help gauge potential returns on investment.

The ROI Calculator, developed by the Mobile Work Exchange over the past year, uses basic input information about an agency to calculate returns for the most common telework and mobility metrics, including transit subsidies, environmental impact, continuity of operations (COOP), productivity, employee retention, and real estate and utility savings.

Mobile Work Exchange general manager Cindy Auten said the ROI Calculator has been beta tested by several telework-leading agencies, and should provide telework managers baseline values for potential initiatives.

"We worked with a wide variety of agencies to look at their models, to find the best practices in government, on how they are measuring the ROI of telework," Auten said. "This tool should serve as a resource for those agencies that are having trouble figuring this out. It can give them a baseline on what the value of telework is for employees and agencies, and that's critical to any telework program."

As an example, a workforce of 5,000 employees beginning to telework twice weekly could save an agency approximately $1.4 million annually, based on metrics developed within the government.

Transit subsidies are calculated using reimbursement figures outlined by the Internal Revenue Services per the Department of Transportation's recommendations; agency environmental savings are calculated based on commuting research developed during Telework Week and carbon emissions data provided by the Department of Energy; continuity savings are tabulated by combining data from the Office of Personnel Management and salary data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

ROI calculations for productivity, employee retention and real estate and utilities come from metrics derived from the Department of Defense, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Bureau of Economy Analysis, the Department of Labor and the General Services Administration.

Such metrics are useful on their own, Auten said, but combined they forecast a general blueprint for what an agency can expect through telework, though she stressed that each agency should cater their efforts to best fit their missions. The Patent and Trademark Office, for example, uses performance measures to track telework productivity; that approach is probably not the best option for agencies where employee workloads aren't as quantifiable.

Auten said the ROI Calculator should also prove useful to feds who oversee telework programs in specific agencies or departments, easing the ability to demonstrate savings from small tweaks in telework programs.

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