Report shows government telework increasing, but barriers remain

12th July, 2011 - Posted by Meredith Lawrence - No Comments

Back when we first launched Fed UC, we authored multiple posts based on a study that Polycom had commissioned with the Government Business Council (GBC). Based on the results of the study, we discussed the benefits and reasons for embracing telework, talked about the roadblocks agencies are facing when looking to further adopt telework and even featured real quotes from agency employees about telework in the federal government.

Now, the Telework Research Network has released the results of a new study entitled the State of Telework in the U.S. . According to the report’s introduction, its purpose was to, “shed light on when and where work is done in the U.S., how that’s changed in recent years, and where the trend might be headed.” And the results are rather interesting.

According to the report, telecommuting in the United States grew by 61% between 2005 and 2009. The percentage of federal employees that were teleworking in 2009 was 3.2 percent, a big increase from a paltry 0.7 percent in 2005.

Unfortunately, even with this significant increase in the number of teleworking federal employees, public sector telework only accounts for approximately 5.2 percent of the total number of teleworkers in the U.S. In fact, according to the U.S. government, of the 61 percent of the two-million federal workers that were considered eligible for telework, only about 5.2 percent actually did.

In addition to identifying the number of individuals currently teleworking and the barriers to further telework adoption, the report returned some enlightening figures about the benefits that telework could have for employees and society as a whole. According to the report:

  • The existing 2.9 million US telecommuters save 390 million gallons of gas and prevent the release of 3.6 million tons of greenhouse gases yearly.
  • If those with compatible jobs worked at home 2.4 days a week (the national average of those who do), the reduction in greenhouse gases (51 million tons) would be equivalent of taking the entire New York workforce off the roads.
  • The national savings would total over $900 billion a year; enough to reduce our Persian Gulf oil imports by 46%.
  • The energy saved annually from telecommuting could exceed the output of all renewable energy sources combined.

These numbers are staggering. So, what’s the hold up? Why are only 5.2 percent of eligible teleworkers in the federal government taking advantage of this cost-cutting, Earth-saving and commute-eliminating opportunity?

According to the report’s findings, the biggest barrier to telecommuting remains management fear and mistrust.

Luckily, there are new technologies available to the federal government that can help assuage this fear and mistrust and help management overcome their hesitance towards adopting telework in their agencies. New Unified Communications (UC) solutions, such as video teleconferencing (VTC) and data sharing can help managers ensure that their employees are working. These solutions can also enable the same level of communication and collaboration between distributed coworkers as they are privy to in the office.

According to reports such as the one conducted by the GBC, and this new report by the Telework Research Network, the benefits of Telework for government employees, federal agencies and the environment are incredible. By embracing today’s advanced UC solutions, government agencies can overcome the management fear and mistrust shackling further telework adoption and begin to reap the rewards of a teleworking workforce.

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