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Telework: Saving Dollars and Making Sense

A recent GAO report reviewed OPM’s 2012 annual report to Congress on the Federal government’s telework programs. While it acknowledges the progress that has been made in agency reporting on this issue, it also makes the interesting point that agencies have not yet focused on assessing the cost savings associated with telework programs. That’s a pity because recognizing the cost savings can help agencies sell the value of these programs. Yes, they do assist employees by promoting work-life balance, and they help agencies attract and retain a high quality workforce by offering employment flexibility. But they also help agencies reduce the costs associated with real estate, office operations, transportation subsidies, and energy consumption. With today’s focus on tight budgets and the likelihood that this will continue for the foreseeable future, it is time for agencies to think about the dollars and sense value of their telework programs. OPM could help by providing a standard methodology that they could use to assess the impacts of telework programs on goals for cost reduction and cost avoidance. It would be interesting too if some of the surveys that ask teleworkers about their job satisfaction would also ask people to estimate what they are saving in commuting costs, dog walking fees, and loss of vacation days to meet the air conditioning repairman. There is a sound financial argument to made here that goes beyond the important and worthwhile objective of work life balance. It’s time for agencies to start making the case for the financial – as well as the human — benefits of a mobile work environment.

You can check out the GAO’s report here: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-298R

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Henry Brown

Been a struggle since the “day of the modem”… IMO one of the reasons Agencies do NOT want to do a cost analysis is the fear of a loss of power, by either management or IT, when the number comes back indicating that teleworking will in fact save money.

Another reason that Telework analysis has not gone foward is the inability of some organizations to deal with the fact some employees will never want to telework.

Terrence (Terry) Hill

Thanks for sharing the GAO Report Naomi! I have to agree with Henry. Some managers are hoping that telework will go away and they can go back to business as usual. Admitted that there are cost savings in incompatible with this notion. There will always be a small minority that chooses not to telework, but that percentage is decreasing as retirements are rising.

This year’s telework report is due to Congress any day now. I think that you will see an increasing demand for telework among employees. We will eventually reach the tipping point where telework is an accepted practice, but until then, it is still an uphill battle.

Henry Brown

IMO Interesting Response from gorowe.com

An Open Letter to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for the U.S. Federal Government
Posted by: Cali Ressler & Jody Thompson

As bestselling authors and workplace culture consultants who had the opportunity to implement a pilot of a Results-Only Work Environment in a subset of your workforce, we were disheartened to read the article OPM Needs to Improve Telework Reporting GAO Report Finds written by FedManager on July 2nd. We had high hopes that OPM would ‘get it’ and begin moving the work environment of the Federal Government into the 21st century – where each and every person is held accountable to measurable results, and in turn, stop wasting everyone’s time and money on ridiculously outdated telework programs and mulling over pages and pages of reports filled with data from a system that’s seriously behind the times.

During your pilot of ROWE, you learned that your organization’s goals weren’t as clear as they should be, metrics weren’t easily identifiable, and communication was not understandable. This was a huge opportunity for OPM to lead the charge to change the conversation to results, not who gets to telework. We both know that spending time on programs and program reporting is getting in the way of Federal Government employees focusing on what really matters.

Employees are not being held accountable to measurable results and starting with OPM, this must be turned around.