GSA is giving a boost to telework efforts! In October 2010, the U.S. General Services Administration announced a significant step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They also expect to save millions of federal travel dollars in the process.
Early in 2011, GSA will open “virtual meeting centers” in federal buildings across the country. When operational, telepresence centers will be available to federal agencies at a fixed hourly rate, to conduct face-to-face meetings with teleworkers and distantly located employees. Centers will also be available to stateside military families so that they can meet virtually with service members overseas.
The first centers will be located at GSA’s 11 regional headquarter offices in federal buildings located in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Fort Worth, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., as well as four headquarters locations in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. Each room in every center will contain high-definition video and advanced audio equipment, as well as state of the art collaboration tools to enhance the immersive experience and facilitate participant productivity. Centers will specially be constructed and equipped to provide live, face-to-face, interactive meetings for every participant across the user’s network. Meeting networks will allow user-agencies to meet with counterparts in any of these cities where the “telepresence center” is located as well as with counterparts located in other telepresence-type networks nationally and internationally.
For agencies that cannot afford to make such a grand investment, these GSA efforts will give them a boost. Other agencies, with greater financial resources, have already started equipping themselves with the tools to support telework and distance assignments. They are supplying laptop computers, VPN networks, and home office equipment to off-site employees. Some agencies also have purchased and installed VTC (video teleconferencing) equipment in their state offices around the country; they are using web applications in abundance to facilitate on-site, electronically-delivered training, and they are meeting regularly and face-to-face with their national office directorates to share policy practices and to discuss implementation concerns from the service-delivery level.
The time has come … there are less dollars available to support conventional methods for meeting and training. Slowly but surely telework will have to happen. What is your employer doing to support telework efforts?
My employer has been replacing our old computer towers with laptops and our phones with mobiles, just naturally through the end-of-life programs that already exist. We are also piloting telepresence technologies and hope that their adoption will lead to smaller travelling costs. I work for the Dept of Public Works and Govt Services in Canada.