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Are You Teleworking Yet?

December 21, 2011
In February of this year, I wrote a blog about teleworking, and this week I want to revisit that topic.  Teleworking, or telecommuting, holds the potential to be a boon for green office efforts, cleaner air, and cost savings for employees and agencies, among other things.  Specifically, I want to check in with the federal government to learn what’s new since the passage of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which directed all federal agencies to adopt policies and procedures to meet three main goals—to improve continuity of operations in emergencies, to reduce management costs, environmental impact, and transit costs, and to facilitate work-life balance for employee productivity and retention. 
The federal strategy gives the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Services Administration (GSA) broad oversight and implementation responsibilities, and key roles to other agencies as well.    In the past ten months there has been a lot of progress to establish the framework for easing the introduction and expansion of teleworking for as many employees and agencies as practically feasible.  The two biggest steps are the websites, Telework.gov  and TeleworkExchange.  
Telework.gov was created by the OPM and GSA to provide agencies, employees, and managers with one-stop resources, information, guidelines to promote a successful program.  This is where you can quickly locate the most recent February 2011 annual report on teleworking, which summarizes the 2009 statistics on teleworkers in the federal government and sets out the agenda for the coming implementation of the new federal law passed and signed in 2010. Teleworking increased about 10% over 2008, or about 113,000 workers teleworked in 2009, or roughly 6% of the federal workforce.  The report includes the results of a survey of federal employees to identify factors that promote successful experiences and barriers to teleworking.  The report is a good resource for any office contemplating a teleworking program, and the website itself is a superb resource to government and private sector offices.  In my years in government, I’ve learned that oftentimes, there are other entities with more experience in similar efforts that I’m undertaking, so a smart first step is to find out what others are already doing and what they’ve learned that can improve your chances for early and successful outcomes.
The second website, TeleworkExchange, is a public/private partnership that was established to demonstrate the tangible benefits of teleworking and to support and assist federal government employees and managers and IT professionals with the educational and communications requirements involved in teleworking. The website offers cost and environmental calculators to help employees decide if teleworking is a viable option and to build a business case to management.  Also, the site has resources on best practices, studies, IT considerations, and a “water cooler” coming soon to facilitate communication among teleworkers to exchange tips and ideas.  

In addition to the ongoing campaign to promote teleworking, TeleworkExchange hosts Telework Week the week of March 5 to 12, 2012.  This is the second annual event, which aims to encourage agencies, organizations, and individuals to pledge to telework during that week.  One objective is to prompt employees and agencies to test out teleworking and hopefully decide to continue to expand their participation.  Cisco is a major sponsor of the event, and TeleworkExchange is affiliated with a number of the big names in the IT industry, including Adobe, Intel, Microsoft, Sprint, Citrix, Blackberry, and Aruba Networks.  

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