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Expert: With Savings of $15 Billion Annually, Telework Improvements Act a ‘No-Brainer’

in Broadband's Impact/Expert Opinion by

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

Individuals would:

  • 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.

Kate Lister, principal investigator at the Telework Research Network (TRN) and co-author of the popular-press book Undress For Success—The Naked Truth About Making Money at Home (John Wiley & Sons, 2009). Her research has been cited in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Washington Post, and dozens of other publications. TRN's free web-based Telework Savings Calculator has been used by company and community leaders throughout the U.S. and Canada to quantify their own telework savings potential.


  1. While the benefits of telework in the federal government are potentially real… for instance the less use of gas by commuters being the most tangible, …. the idea that government workers are “productive” is ludicrous at best. They produce NOTHING. They add nothing to the GNP. They produce nothing that is sold on the market for revenue. A snowstorm day in the Federal Government is not like a snowstorm day at a Catipillar Tractor plant in East Peoria IL.

    If a government worker doesn’t show up for work, nothing in the way of productivity is lost. The facility lease is still paid, the building utility bill is not reduced, the salaries paid remain unchanged unless the poor sole is out of leave, etc., the only saving is personal… commuter expense. The above suggested “savings” are bogus. You would have to have the entire Federal Government not drive to work.

    Now if you could have the Federal work force entirely work from home and no longer have Government building leases, etc… then these figures would make sense… but until then…. its smoke and joke.

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