The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is criticized for plenty of things, but failure to institute telecommuting isn't one of them.
Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director Margaret J.A. Peterlin testified Tuesday before the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for a hearing on the issue of employees who work from home.
Because of its policies, the USPTO is considered a leader among federal agencies for allowing its workings mobility.
For example, by the end of fiscal year 2007, 3,609 USPTO employees participated in some form of telework. That's up about 59% from 2006 and represents 40.7% slice of the office's total workforce.
The patent office boasts saving more than 613,000 gallons of gas, preventing 9,600 tons of emissions, and saving more than $1.8 million annually in fuel costs by allowing employees to work outside the office.
Peterlin told the House Committee that will help the agency hire the best talent, from outside the Mid-Atlantic region, retain employees, and minimize real estate costs associated with workforce expansion.
"Our experience shows telework programs result in greater employee productivity, higher levels of sustained performance, reduced traffic congestion and air pollution, and reduced real estate costs," she said. "Our motivated, high-performing employees have shown they can perform their responsibilities regardless of physical location."
To help link home and office workers, the USPTO has a full-time coordinator and a dedicated Intranet Web site to provide information on telework opportunities.
The office's Trademark Work-at-Home (TWAH) program began in 1997 with 18 examining attorneys working from home three days a week. Now, more than 240 employees, or 86% of the eligible examining attorneys, participate. Most spend one day a week in offices after reserving shared space.
A separate Patent Hoteling Program offered about 500 patent examiners access all relevant USPTO patent business systems, job performance tools, patent information and patent application documentation from their remote worksites, in 2006. Now, more than 1,000 patent examiners participate.
The USPTO said it expects to hire 1,200 new patent examiners a year for the next several years. It predicts that 3,000 examiners will telework by the end of fiscal year 2011.