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How information technology is changing the landscape for federal employees.

Home Sweet Home

Most federal workers should have been notified by now whether or not they are eligible to telework, thanks to the requirements of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act. But those who are eligible may not be rushing to use one of the General Services Administration's telework centers, a new survey suggests.

The survey of 268 federal information technology professionals, conducted by LifeSize, found that while 42 percent of respondents would telework at last two days per week if they were eligible, the overwhelming majority -- 70 percent -- would not use a GSA telework center at all. Just over 13 percent said they might use a telework center one day per week, while a combined 17 percent said they might use a telework center two, three or more days per week.

While one-quarter of respondents said that telework centers would have an advantage of access to agency-supplied technology over teleworking from home, 42 percent felt telework centers offered no advantage at all. Seventy-two percent of those polled believed telework centers were not necessary, noting a preference to work from home or other locations, LifeSize found.

At least one respondent to the survey scoffed at the notion of telework in general, saying "Telecommuting is a way of saying 'I am going to do nothing today,' and should not be considered at all."

GSA announced last month the closure of several telework centers as a result of expired contracts. Four centers currently remain open in Northern Virginia.

LifeSize, which is a provider of high-definition videoconferencing services, obviously had an interest in the study. The report indicated that agencies may be better served by channeling back savings into providing telework-eligible employees with videoconferencing and telepresence equipment in their homes.

"Completely outfitting a telework center is not an inexpensive proposition," the report states. "Taking into account the added cost of maintaining the facilities themselves, it is fair to ask whether the government might not be better served by shutting down all telework centers."

Paul Cantwell, vice president of sales for LifeSize, told Wired Workplace on Thursday that now that 95 percent of homes in the Washington metro area have access to high-speed bandwith, the government may "need to take another hard look at getting people off the highways."

"Just because someone is in a distant location doesn't mean they can't stay connected to the workplace," Cantwell said. "We have a very technologically-savvy workforce within the federal government anyway, so adoption of technology is usually not a big challenge."

Wired Workplace is a daily look at issues facing the federal information technology workforce. It is written by former Government Executive reporter Brittany Ballenstedt and published on Nextgov.com. Click here to read the latest entries.

Reporter Portrait for GovernmentExecutive.com

Brittany 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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