Federal Telework Surge Could Save $14 Billion Annually

Federal Telework Surge Could Save $14 Billion Annually

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By Brittany Ballenstedt January 24, 2014

The federal government could save roughly $14 billion annually if employees who are both interested and eligible to telework do so twice a week on average, according to new estimates.

Global Workplace Analytics and the Telework Research Network on Wednesday released an update to its annual forecast for governmentwide telework savings. The updated forecast reflects data in the 2013 telework status report released by the Office of Personnel Management last month, and indicates potential savings of nearly $14 billion per year and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to planting 18 million trees.

Those figures were calculated using GWA’s Federal Telework Savings Calculator, which, based on OPM data, showed that if federal employees both interested (87 percent) and eligible (47 percent) for telework did so about twice per week, annual savings could total nearly $16,000 per teleworker.

The calculator estimates telework savings based on a set of assumptions about the impact of telework on real estate, absenteeism, turnover, productivity, transit subsidies, continuity of operations and health care.

“Even existing levels of telework in government can yield savings,” said Kate Lister, president of GWA and lead author on the report. “If effectively implemented in concert with HR, IT and real estate and COOP strategies, the savings from the 8 percent (169,000) of federal employees who telework regularly could total over $1.7 billion a year.”

Still, while many reports have made a solid case for significant cost savings for agencies that expand telework, many managers and employees are still resistant to the concept. OPM’s status report showed that while 47 percent of feds in September 2012 had been notified of their eligibility to telework, just 21 percent of those eligible did so that month.

In fact, a Wired Workplace post last month that questioned why more feds are not teleworking yielded a number of comments, a majority of which pointed to managerial resistance and inadequate technology as the leading barriers to more widespread telework adoption. To be fair, some feds said they simply choose not to telework, mostly out of the desire to keep work and home life separate.

“Bottom line: Why aren’t more employees teleworking? Because management and supervisors will not allow it just because it is available,” one commenter noted. “Too many micro-managers in the government. Those that abuse it, and it’s obvious to management, should not be allowed, but stop withholding from those who prove themselves.”

Do these updated figures on federal telework savings have the potential to change the mind of your agency leadership or supervisor? What can government do to at least inch closer to that potential $14 billion in savings?

Reporter Portrait for GovernmentExecutive.comBrittany Ballenstedt writes Nextgov‘s Wired Workplace blog, which delves into the issues facing employees who work in the federal information technology sector. Before joining Nextgov, Brittany covered federal pay and benefits issues as a staff correspondent for Government Executive and served as an associate editor for National Journal’s Technology Daily. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Mansfield University and originally hails from Pennsylvania. She currently lives near Travis Air Force Base, Calif., where her husband is stationed.

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