Despite federal initiatives and myriad benefits of telework, most of Washington remains gridlocked during rush hour.
But that tide could turn soon.
More than 25,000 federal workers have pledged to participate in Telework Week March 5-9, a national effort to encourage working outside the traditional office space. The event is among several efforts, including legislative initiatives, to inform workers and leaders about telework benefits and encourage the practice.
Mika J. Cross, who serves as Work/Life and Wellness Program Manager for the Department of Agriculture, said her agency has embraced telework at all levels and hopes the event encourages others to follow suit.
“This effort truly has been a top down and internal approach to change the way we work and the way we think about employees,” said Cross. “Federal employees are being asked to do so much more with so much less. … We have to find free and innovative ways to support our workforce.”
However, permitting more federal employees to skip the commute and work from home isn’t just an act of good will to attract and retain employees. It also boils down to smart economics. The General Services Administration estimates that if federal workers telecommuted at least one day per week, federal agencies could increase productivity by more than $2.3 billion annually. Agencies could also save potentially billions more on office space, electricity and supplies.
Despite nearly a decade of initiatives supported by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management–and a renewed push by President Obama and the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010–only 20 percent of the federal workforce report they are currently teleworking, according to a national survey of 266,000 federal employees released by OPM last year.
The 2010 mandate established baseline expectations for the federal telework program. The Office of Personnel Management, the General Services Administration and other agencies provide guidance for the effort in accordance with the law.
But Cross said efforts at the department have been primarily driven by results of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and leadership‘s commitment to cultural transformation. In addition, there’s motivation to reduce utility costs and an effort to offset deep cuts in the transit subsidy provided to federal workers.
According to the Telework Exchange, which is sponsoring the March evebt, the average teleworker will save $63 during Telework Week by not commuting. This translates to $3,276 a year (per average worker) in commuting savings.
“Telework has tremendous potential to transform the way government works and to support a modern and adaptive workplace –it empowers the entire Federal workforce to be mobile and agile for the 21st Century economy,” said Martha Johnson, Administrator of GSA. “As the federal government’s workplace solutions provider, GSA is leveraging its expertise to help advance the mobility of the government’s workforce and support teleworking initiatives.”