Feds not reaping the benefits of mobile tech

Only 11 percent of government employees use laptops, study finds

Many government information workers still don't have mobile technologies to support the kind of location flexibility that would make telework much easier, according to a new study by Forrester Research.

The study compared the responses of private and public-sector IT employees in Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Approximately 700 of the survey respondents were North American and European local and federal government information workers, according to the Jan. 28 study.

Many of the respondents were managers.

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“As the February 2010 blizzard that hit Washington, D.C., showed, weather emergencies or other situations that prevent travel can paralyze a government whose workers are tied to a desk in an office building,” the study said. “But today, North American and European governments trail other sectors in untethering their employees from a cubicle: 63 percent of government employees work in only one location compared to 56 percent of nongovernment workers.”

The study also found that 87 percent of government employees use desktop computers or tools that “lock them to their office desks.” Only 11 percent use laptops, which would allow them to work from home even if they don't have a permanent home office set up, and other mobile technologies such as iPads are “rare in government office computing environments.”

In addition, only 9 percent of government information personnel have smart phones that they use for work, which lags behind the rest of the information workforce, according to the study. This contrasts with the 19 percent of government employees who use smart phones in their personal lives, the study said.

Cindy Auten, general manager for Telework Exchange, said the majority of federal employees spend at least a portion of their work day out of the office, and she encouraged agencies to provide workers with mobile technologies.

“As this report suggests, agencies can realize major productivity gains by equipping employees with mobile tools and support to enable them to conduct work at home, while traveling and at meetings in other locations,” Auten said. “Rather than allowing federal employees to spend time out of the office unconnected, agencies should build mobile technologies into technology refreshes to replace desktop computers and other technology that ties employees to their desk.”

Auten said the new telework law will help the federal government advance its telework policy and allow the maximum number of eligible employees to telework.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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Reader Comments

Thu, Feb 10, 2011

The Gov't should pay for telework capability. In the short and long run, it will pay off. Snow storms and other emergencies will enable the shut down of gov't buildings without the shut down of workers. The South has experienced snow as never before. Yet those of us who have laptops and wireless capabilty can continue to work.

Thu, Feb 10, 2011

Its a shame to pay tax dollars for devices that support the capability however you do not use them to the full potential. Most if not all non-emergency personnel can telework with the money that has been spent for remote access. I have worked for several different agencies in various capacities within IT and there has been billions of tax payers dollars spent on the remote access capabilities. However, since specific managers cannot seem to account for their employees the steps to mobility has been hindered.

Fri, Feb 4, 2011 ImNotaWitch DC

Ya think maybe it's because of the threat of the elimination that telework would cause "middle management" (supervisor class) whose sole reasona for existing is to constantly count heads and watch clocks to see if somebody came in 5 minutes late and write them up ... that telework is not being promoted? Ya think?

Thu, Feb 3, 2011 A Very Productive TeleWorker Fort Worth TX

I see how telework produces a high level of prodcutivity, saves money for the government, ultimately the tax payers and is more efficient. We just completed a teleconference call that that used to have people from all over the United States travel to 1 location. We just saved airline/hotel/per diem costs, and became more efficient. The other hours of the day are spent doing my local work. The process has not been totally perfected yet but it will be. Supervisors will comply with agency requirements and agency policy for telework. Some may not like working from home for whatever reason(s). I think it's a fit for some and not for others. I do understand how some supervisors can and do hinder the process for others in some agencies (this is truly sad) but I'm delighted with the progress we have made. (My superviosr does not care for telework and he has his reasons which are valid)

Thu, Feb 3, 2011 fed

i think it's intentional. I was granted telework from EEO for disability (so much for disabled workers) and now am facing termination. Medical accommodation. Also, i was and still am held accountable for shortcomings in our network connections when working from home, which are slow, unreliable, and take twice as long to perform tasks with then in the office.

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