Study: More Federal Workers Seek Teleworking Opportunities

Broadband's Impact, FCC, National Broadband Plan June 21st, 2010

, Reporter-Researcher, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2010 – More federal workers wish to telework and the government should study private sector efforts to make that happen, according to a new study.

A new report out from media firm FedScoop titled “Telework 2010: Telework in the Federal Government” addresses recommendations laid out in the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan that addresses incentivizing off-site working opportunities within the federal government.

FedScoop’s study asks the question of whether the government is prepared to implement such a policy, and then “assesses current attitudes and practices of telework in the federal sector, and ways technology can improve operations.”

The study’s sample is skewed toward public sector employee respondents, with 62 percent of respondents coming from the federal government, as opposed to 38 percent, who come from private industry. Of these combined groups, 47 percent are in management positions. The study is geared as a guide to management, and this slight skewing in favor of non-managing personnel seems to reflect that intent.

According to the study, 93 percent of federal sector employees report that the ability to telework would make working for an organization “more desirable.” This contrasts with the current state of federal telework – 23 percent of respondents report teleworking “regularly or exclusively,” as opposed to 64 percent of private sector respondents.

The lack of teleworking alternatives does not spring from lack of confidence with technology among the federal sector. Ninety-one percent of respondents working in the private sector felt qualified to engage in telework, while 95 percent of respondents working in the federal sector felt the same way. This confidence gap is inversely proportional with current availability.

One element of this, the study suggests, may lie in a difference in federal priorities versus private sector priorities. When asked about the importance of cost saving, hiring disabled persons, having a positive environmental impact and preserving a flexible work environment, federal government workers rated their organizations between 12 and 32 percent less likely to care about these goals than private sector employees.

The study notes that 93 percent of all managers surveyed are satisfied with the quality of work done remotely, while the same percentage also said that they trust their team members to telework remotely. The only question where any gap appears is in managers’ confidence in their own ability to manage teleworking employees. Eighty-one percent of managerial staff felt that their management ability was unaffected by telework.

The study also suggests that telework may become immediately valuable as a practical matter in crisis situations. One section of the study contrasts the response of the private sector to the response of the federal sector with respect to the snowstorms that occurred last winter. Of those surveyed, 92 percent of federal employees reported that their offices were forced to close by the storm, whereas 37 percent of private sector employees reported the same thing.

Having demonstrated the differences between public sector telework and private sector telework, the study makes three recommendations. Firstly, the federal sector should “empower management through telework training programs.” Secondly, the federal sector should “put performance standards and procedures in place so that managers can track results” and lastly it should “encourage managers to work with their agency’s designated telework coordinator.”

The study also suggests that the federal government distribute laptops to its employees, train them in data backup/password usage and equip all work-related technology with industry standard Virtual Private Network software to allow remote work.

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