Last week's "no" vote on H.R. 1722—The Telework Improvements Act, will cost American taxpayers $15 billion dollars a year. That’s what passage of the bill could have saved in real estate, electricity, absenteeism, turnover, gas, imported oil, and other costs.
Approving the bill should have been a no-brainer. According to the government’s own figures, lost productivity cost them $71 million each day a snowstorm clobbered the Capital. Based on the cost of projected by the Congressional Budget Office, we’re talking a 250 percent return on investment—and that’s before you consider the impact of weather, disease, and terrorist events that frequently threaten to bring the Capital to its knees.
Federal workers have been required to work from home to the maximum extent possible since 2000—mainly to ensure continuity of operations in the event of an emergency. Yet, while 61% of the federal workforce is considered eligible for telecommuting, only 5.2 percent do. H.R. 1722, and a similar bill still pending in the Senate (S.707), were crafted to close the gap—a problem that stems largely from management resistance.
The bill failed by only 1 percent —all but one of the nay votes coming from the Republican side of the House. Given that an almost identical bill passed in the House during the last months of the Bush administration—it's hard not to blame the reversal on party politics.
Based on our Telework Savings Calculator, if those eligible employees who wanted to work from home did so just one day every other week (the level required in H.R. 1722):
The Government would:
- Increase productivity by over $2 billion a year—that's 55,000 man years
- Save $6.2 billion in real estate, electricity, and related costs
- Save $10 billion in absenteeism and employee turnover
- Achieve a better work-life balance
- Save $400-$1,400/year
- Collectively save 57 million gallons of gas
The Nation would:
- Save 2.9 million barrels of oil
- Reduce greenhouse gases by half a million tons/year
- Reduce the strain on our crumbling transportation infrastructure by 1.2 billion vehicle miles
- Save $117 million in traffic accident costs
The President, the First Lady, and the director of the Office of Personnel Management, John Berry, have all professed their support for telecommuting. A similar bill, S.707 is pending in the Senate. If you believe that workshifting should be the way of the future, I urge you to tell your political representatives why the way to work should be the road less traveled.