Teleworking Benefits Employees, Employers

The rising cost of fuel is prompting thousands of federal government workers to consider the benefits of teleworking — either working from home or at an offsite location closer to home.

“The increased urgency to reduce the burden of high gasoline prices on the workforce has pushed telework to the forefront as an imperative operating model for the federal government,” said Stephen O’Keeffe, executive director of the Telework Exchange — the public-private partnership launched in April 2005 to increase the awareness of telework in the government.

Soaring Commuting Costs

To further the cause, Telework Exchange recently published a study titled, “Fuel Smart Economy: It’s No Gas,” that examined the cost of the daily commute from April to September 2005. It found that Americans spent US$250 million on commuting each business day during April.

“With the September gasoline price hikes, the commuting costs for all white-collar America jumped by over 42.6 percent to $355.8 million,” O’Keeffe said. Over the course of an average week, the study found that the U.S. white-collar workforce consumes 583.3 million gallons of gasoline. “If the entire U.S. white-collar workforce teleworks just two days per week, America would conserve 233.3 million gallons of gasoline each week,” O’Keeffe said.

Some other key findings of the study by the Telework Exchange included:

  • Federal employees spend an average of 233 hours of their life commuting each year — by teleworking three days per week this employee would get 98 hours of their life back;
  • Full-time teleworkers could earn an MBA 35 percent faster, read 25 books a year, clean out 83 closets or train for a marathon with the time saved by not commuting each year;
  • Telework barriers remain — 56 percent of respondents reported their agency has a telework plan, but only 21 percent believe they can readily access that plan.

“The Telework Exchange is focused on building alliances with organizations to pull together and move the needle forward on telework,” O’Keeffe said. Some of its founding private industry members include Intel, CDW-G, Citrix and Juniper Networks. It currently has more than 3,500 federal employee members. O’Keeffe said that number is growing each month.

Federal employees who register on the Telework Exchange Web site are provided with a series of free services, including a discussion platform, news on teleworking and other tools designed for teleworkers and telework managers.

Kathryn Kadilak, who oversees the U.S. Department of Justice’s Worklife Program in Washington, D.C., said she would recommend Telework Exchange to others. As a program manager, she is responsible for initiatives affecting over 100,000 federal employees nationwide.

“The telework savings calculator is a particularly impressive feature of the Web site, which allows teleworkers and employees requesting telework … to demonstrate the level of cost savings to be derived through teleworking,” Kadilak said. “This type of information is compelling to management and can aid with gaining approval to work remotely.”

Being Prepared

The Telework Exchange also released a study regarding the federal government’s continuity of operations or preparedness, known as COOP. “Recent natural catastrophes and pressing concerns about man-made and pandemic threats mean that mainstream America is now very focused on improving government’s disaster preparedness capabilities,” O’Keeffe said.

The study, by Telework Exchange and Citrix Systems titled “COOP: A Wake Up Call,” found that 45 percent of federal employees do not have personal guidance from their agencies on how to handle a disaster. “More than 40 percent feel their agency is not prepared to continue business operations in the event of a natural or man-made disaster,” O’Keeffe said.

“In addition to quality of life and productivity benefits, telework has critical implications for the federal government’s efforts toward recruiting and retaining the best and brightest, conserving energy and gasoline, as well as realizing robust business continuity preparedness. The time is now to make telework a mainstream operating platform for the federal government.”

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