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FCW : August 30, 2013
August 30, 2013 FCW.COM 17 she added. "With today s technology and USDA s mobility strategy, our tele- workers are able to perform their work seamlessly with the same level of cus- tomer service, availability, accessibility and accountability." Feds warm up to telework USPTO was doing telework before most federal agencies acknowledged its potential to cut costs, boost ef cien- cy and retain talented employees. The agency s approach has become the gold standard for telework in the federal government, and it is on par with lead- ing mobile innovators in the private sector. In recent years, the rest of the gov- ernment has begun exploring telework for three primary reasons: to com- ply with legislation, in particular the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010; to thoroughly exploit every penny- pinching measure possible as budgets dwindle; and to respond to the growing interest in mobile technology. "We have seen tremendous increases across the board," said Cindy Auten, general manager of the Mobile Work Exchange. "When we look back to before 2010, there were only a hand- ful of agencies leading implementation of telework." By contrast, the organization s latest Telework Week in March, an annual effort that encourages public- and private-sector employees to telework at least once during that week, attract- ed 112,000 federal employees. That s only about 10 percent of the 1 million federal employees who are estimated to be eligible to telework, but it repre- sents a huge jump in telework partici- pation in the past three years. "It s hard now to nd an agency that doesn t have some form of telework [program] or plan in place," Auten said. "Some agencies have been extremely aggressive with their programs over the past few years." Just a few years ago, agencies aggressively exploring telework were rare. Now, successful examples abound: • The Federal Emergency Manage- ment Agency dove into Telework Week with more than half of its 5,500 full-time employees trying telework for the rst time in 2013. Telework is part of the agency s plans to consoli- date space and close ve of its eight buildings by 2016. That initiative will cut $9.1 million in annual leasing costs and another $530,000 per year in utility expenditures. • In 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immi- gration Services went from minimal teleworking --- one telework day per pay period --- to allowing almost its entire staff to telework up to three days per week. • At the Interior Department s Of ce of Inspector General, a mobile program has expanded to allow 98 percent of its employees to telework, increasing telework hours by 500 percent com- pared with 2010. • The General Services Administration moved its headquarters to downtown Washington, shedding half the of ce space for 3,300 employees in favor of a telework-friendly policy implemented by Administrator Dan Tangherlini. Tele- workers communicate with co-workers and bosses through instant messaging and email, and they reserve desk space when they need to come into the of ce. The savings in leased space is report- edly $24 million a year. Better metrics build a better case One of the biggest challenges about telework is tracking its returns. Although savings in real estate, for example, can be documented in hard numbers, tracking the productivity of an employee who teleworks compared with one who doesn t is not always straightforward. At USDA, for example, leaders still struggle to measure the productivity of a huge customer-facing workforce, especially because attempting to do so could be futile given the diversity of work that takes place in the agency, Cross said. In the private sector, CEO Melissa Mayer banned teleworking at Yahoo earlier this year because she believed teleworking employees were not as productive as their in-of ce counter- parts and that communication and collaboration suffer when employees work remotely. Government leaders have the same concerns, and most agencies have not yet resolved them --- in part because few have produc- tion metrics that are as speci c and unambiguous as USPTO s. Tracking productivity is relatively easy at USPTO because most of its teleworkers are engaged in quanti - able work. Performance measures are based on the employee s position and experience level, and a trademark- examining attorney or patent examiner knows how many trademark applica- tions or patents he or she must review on a biweekly basis. Patent examiners and trademark- examining attorneys must demonstrate competence in the of ce for one to two years before they are allowed to telework. Even in departments where productivity is not easily measured, performance metrics for telework- ers and non-teleworkers are clearly de ned. And performance measures are the same for teleworkers and in- of ce employees. Those metrics are tracked over time, providing USPTO with hard num- bers regarding the productivity of its employees. Since the early 2000s, when telework began to take shape at the agency, the productivity of individu- al patent examiners and trademark- examining attorneys has at least held steady. "Our performance measures agen- cywide are very clearly de ned," said Campbell, noting that telework is now integral to the agency s mission. "Those expectations are also very clearly defined and addressed prior to an individual participating in telework." In 16 years, USPTO went from 18 teleworkers to close to 8,000. With the agency paving the way for telework success in the federal government, its peers have a clear model from which to craft their own strategies. ■
August 15, 2013
September 15, 2013