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6 Benefits of Telework – Some You Know, Some You Don’t

You’ve probably heard about the negatives surrounding telework plenty of times: security risks, loose agency culture, loss of innovation. One of my big frustrations with telework is it sometimes feels like we keep having the same conversation over and over again.

In our latest guide, “Agency of the Future: Telework More Than a Trend – A Workplace Transformation,” took a slightly different tactic and asked, “With all the risks associated with telework, why do it?”

We asked more than 270 government workers what they thought were the big benefits of telework.

Respondents were asked to rank their answers in order of importance:

  1. Creates a more flexible schedule/work-life balance. The majority of respondents indicated that a flexible schedule and work-life balance were the benefits they appreciated the most about telework. For instance, one respondent said, “Telework has achieved value for me personally by improving my work/life balance and job satisfaction, enabling me to prioritize my efforts toward business objectives, and reducing my commute, including my carbon footprint.” It was not just individual teleworkers that cited this benefit, but managers as well.
  2. Improves productivity of the workforce. Another big benefit of remote work is the added productivity. According to a recent Telework Exchange study of Federal managers, 66% of managers who manage teleworkers find that teleworkers are as productive as their in-office counterparts.Our survey respondent agreed, “My productivity increased by at least 20%. This is in no small part due to significantly fewer interruptions and impromptu meetings. I have also significantly reduced the number of evening hours I was otherwise having to put in, making me overall a happier, more productive professional.”
  3. Supports continuity of operations. Telework is a key factor in emergency planning, response, and prevention because it allows for continuity of operations in challenging circumstances. One of our survey respondents noted that Federal officials shut the government down as Hurricane Sandy crashed ashore in October of 2012. However, the Office of Personnel Management indicated that one-third of the region’s federal employees continued to work after officers were shuttered for two days. Hurricane Sandy isn’t the only example of continuity of operations. Another survey respondent reported: “In February 2010, when a large amount of snow shut down the government for almost an entire work week, we were working on the Standard Reinsurance Agreement, a contract between the Federal Government and the insurance industry. The entire Washington, DC office teleworked that week and we were able to meet our contractual deadlines.”
  4. Cuts costs by reducing the physical need for space. By allowing employees to telework, agencies are also able to save money on physical office space. One survey respondent reported, “Telework is becoming more culturally acceptable. Looking forward to the future, there are now conversations about how the agency can save money by increasing teleworkers so that office space can become “hotel” space.
  5. Serves as a recruitment and retention tool for top talent IT has been a rough few years for federal employees. A two-year pay freeze, sequestration cuts and hiring freezes have caused many people to refrain from a career in the federal government. One of the ways to turn the tide is to offer a more flexible work environment. One survey respondent from the USDA said: “I applied to the job I have now because it offered telework. I never would have considered applying before. I offer talent that they would not have had before. Carry this forward and agencies should be able to recruit people that would not have considered uprooting and moving themselves and their families to DC.”
  6. Lowers carbon footprint by reducing traffic. The D.C. area has the nation’s worst traffic, according to a study that tracks time and fuel commuters lose in traffic delays. A simple five-mile commute can take hours. That is time and pollution that could be avoided if more employees were able to telework.However traffic congestion and pollution are not just a problem in the DC metro area.

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Terrence (Terry) Hill

At the risk of sounding too pollyanna, at one time I compiled a list of over 100 benefits of telework. Some of the more recent additions to this list include:

  • Improved Health and Wellness – More Time for Sleep and Exercise and Better Diet
  • Avoid Risk of Commuting-Related Traffic Accidents
  • Avoid Workplace Violence
  • Avoid Adverse Weather Conditions
  • Avoid Contagion and Exposure
  • Improved Access to Modern Technology
  • Fresh Air
  • Ability to “Take My Dog to Work” Every Day
  • Ready Access to My Wife/Admin. Asst./Chef/Nurse, etc.

The list goes on and on, but I have to walk to a meeting across town, so I have to stop (AHA, another advantage!).