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