Most Federal Workers Can Work From Home, But Don't - InformationWeek

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2/19/2008
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Most Federal Workers Can Work From Home, But Don't

Billions of dollars could be saved and billions of pounds of pollutants would not enter the air if all federal employees eligible to work from home did so, a study shows.

If all federal employees eligible for full-time telework did work from home, the employees could save a total of $13.9 billion on commuting costs and stop 21.5 billion pounds of pollutants from entering the environment each year, according to a recent study.

However, many employees are unaware of their federal agencies' telework policies, and even fewer know if they are eligible to work from home, a study by Telework Exchange found. The public-private partnership that aims to expand telework in the federal government released "Telework Eligibility Profile: Feds Fit The Bill" on Tuesday.

The federal government is telework friendly, with 79% of those surveyed able to telework full time, according to TeleworkExchange, but only 20% do.

Tandberg, a provider of telepresence, high-definition videoconferencing, and mobile video products and services, found that one-third of federal employees don't know their agencies' telework programs exist.

Forty-two percent of the 664 employees surveyed aren't aware if they're eligible, and 90% of those who are unaware of their eligibility actually are eligible for telework.

If feds who are unaware of their telework status could telework full time, they would collectively save $5 billion in commuting costs and spare the environment 7.7 billion pounds of pollutants annually, the study found. Those figures would be nearly triple if every eligible employee took advantage of their full-time telework programs.

In addition to saving time, money, and natural resources, telework allows employees to maintain a better work/life balance and continuity of operations, according to Telework Exchange.

The group said that the requirements for effective telework are communicating via e-mail and phone, remote access to an organization's IT infrastructure, a safe alternative work environment, and the ability to significantly control one's schedule.

"As the study indicates, the benefits for feds' wallets are staggering," Stephen W.T. O'Keeffe, executive director of Telework Exchange, said in a statement. "Teleworking just three days a week translates to a 60% reduction in commuting costs -- saving the average federal employee nearly $6,000 annually. In fact, the federal government telework deficit is equivalent to the gross domestic product of Jamaica. To offset the amount of CO2 emissions feds disperse in the environment by commuting, we would need to plant 32 million trees a year. Let's get these people off the roadways."

Joel Brunson, president of Tandberg Federal, said the federal government has been slow to adopt telework, but the tide could turn soon.

"With recruitment and retention benefits, growing traffic concerns, continuity of operations requirements, and increasing environmental awareness, we are finally reaching a tipping point," he said in a statement. "Telework will soon become a standard operating procedure in many federal agencies."

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