Telework Nets $300 Million in Productivity Gains

Federal telework initiatives get a ‘B’ for ‘Better than before’

By Leonard Webb Jun 19, 2014

Forty percent of HR managers at federal agencies say they could continue operations in the event of a natural or man-made disaster thanks to their ability to telework, according to a new study by the Mobile Work Exchange.

In fact, during the winter of 2013-14 when more than four feet of snow fell in Washington, D.C., federal agencies that deployed teleworkers saw an average of $300 million in productivity gains. These gains occurred because work didn’t grind to a halt due to inclement weather, according to the Mobility Progress Report: Are Federal Agencies Passing the Test report, released June 16, 2014, by the Mobile Work Exchange.

More than 154 federal IT and HR managers, chief information officers, chief human capital officers, and real estate executives were interviewed for the report about their mobility workforce and mobility management policies.

Among the many findings: If the federal government was able to maintain 100 percent of agency operations because people are teleworking, it could gain an additional $60 million in productivity daily.

But investing in secure mobile technologies will be critical for even greater success, experts said.

“Federal agencies are taking more and more steps towards graduating to the digital world, but are not quite yet at their full potential,” said Cindy Auten, general manager of the Mobile Work Exchange. “With reported gains in continuity of operations, employee productivity and overall efficiency, it builds the business case for agencies to invest in mobile technologies. As agencies look to the future, they must continue to invest in these technologies if they want to save in the long run.”

In grading the federal government in the four years since the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 and two years since the Office of Management and Budget’s Digital Government Strategy, the report reflects the outcomes of federal agencies’ recent mobility/telework initiatives.

The Telework Enhancement Act is the Congressional law requiring agencies to increase workforce flexibility via telework. The Digital Government Strategy was created to enable workers to telework and to access high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device, according to the website.

In a different report, 2013 Status of Telework in the Federal Government: Report to Congress, released by the Office of Personnel Management in December 2013, more than 1 million federal employees were eligible for telecommuting in 2012, a 49 percent spike over 2011.

Auten told SHRM Online in December 2013, “The federal government has come a long way since we started in 2005.” The Mobile Work Exchange’s new report indicates that the government has come even further in just two years, with 77 percent of IT managers giving their agency a “B” or “C” grade on their progress toward the goals of the Digital Government Strategy and 81 percent of HR managers giving the same grades for their agency’s progress toward the goals of the Telework Enhancement Act.

The Digital Government Strategy has led to stronger network infrastructure, according to the report, with increased technological investments in laptops, smartphones and most important, secure remote connection, encryption and data-loss prevention software.

Overall, federal agencies have invested $1.6 billion into these updates, with 74 percent of respondents rating them as effective. The Telework Enhancement Act has shown significant gains in HR-specific software, collaboration software and training, with 69 percent experiencing a positive return on investment, according to the Mobile Work Exchange report.

Other findings:

  • The majority of HR managers surveyed (71 percent) report that employees are leaving agencies or that agencies are missing out on the best job candidates due to either the lack of telework opportunities or the inability to meet federal telework requirements.
  • Respondents said they are most in need of help in securing senior leadership buy-in (32 percent), and better coordination between IT and HR (39 percent).
  • When asked which tactics have been most successful in supporting their mobile workers and which need to be worked on, respondents said security training has been both beneficial and found wanting.
  • When charting factors that are keeping the federal government from taking full advantage of mobility strategies, security concerns were listed by both IT executives(47 percent) and HR managers (31 percent). HR managers also blamed agency culture (37 percent) and management resistance (31 percent).

Damon Lovett, a senior human capital management consultant with Knowledge Source, spoke with SHRM Online earlier this year about the importance of HR and management implementing and enforcing “policies and strong infrastructure/framework to safeguard business information and control chaos.” This is reflected in respondents saying their agencies plan to invest in encryption (35 percent) and mobile device management (25 percent) over the next two years.

Doug Bourgeois, vice president, End User Computing, U.S. Public Sector at VMware, and former chief information officer for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, stated in the Mobile Work Exchange’s news release that, “security will be a key consideration driving future mobility decisions. As the number of diverse mobile devices in the federal government continues to rise, data security and mobile device management will lead in the conversation.”

The report also states that “by leveraging mobility/telework in conjunction with a real estate reduction plan,” the federal government could save $15.1 billion in real estate costs per year, especially since, “HR managers estimate that more than 25 percent of their office space is unoccupied at any given time.”

Leonard Webb is a freelance writer in Wyncote, Pa.


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