Telework cheaper than expected, but agencies still not on board

Although the costs of implementing effective telework programs are far less than predicted, agencies have yet to provide a programmatic and enterprisewide approach to solidifying telecommuting within the government, a General Services Administration report said.

The study concluded that the lack of investment and commitment in making telework acceptable across the government is not only hampering the telecommuting workforce, but agencies overall are losing out on productivity.

'Technical resources and costs that are being used to support telework are uncontrolled from an agencywide, programmatic point of view,' the report said. 'Therefore, these investments are likely to lead to inefficiencies, gaps, and possibly limited value or return.'

Theresa Noll, senior telework program analyst at GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy, said the cost of providing telework access is much smaller than anticipated, while the benefits, if implemented properly, could save agencies considerably.

Noll, who presented the study's results at a conference in Washington today sponsored by the Telework Exchange of Alexandria, Va., said that over a three-year period, an agency could spend $15.6 million on implementing telework programs. At the same time, though, an agency could save about $36 million over the same time period in rent and facilities costs that would be needed to accommodate a more centralized workforce.

'These are all big savings, big benefits,' Noll said.

Agencies must 'measure the total value of telework'both financial and non-financial'when evaluating potential telework investments; the multiple telework benefits will lead to more compelling cost justifications,' the study said.

By incorporating telework expenditures in their overall enterprise planning, agencies could make working remotely more efficient and raise the productivity level of their employees, the report said.

'Appropriate top-level support, program management, capital planning, coordination with other agency initiatives, and full consideration of telework value will result in infrastructure improvements, which will provide full realization of agency IT investments,' the report said.

GSA tapped Booz Allen Hamilton of McLean, Va., to help produce the study.

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