Telework is increasingly satisfying and less problematic, study finds

Management is slower to take to this workplace innovation.

Federal employees looking for more reasons to work from home may be encouraged by the results of Telework Week 2012.

The event ran from March 5 to March 9, drew 80 percent more promises to telework than in 2011, according to a study underwritten by Cisco and released Wednesday by Telework Exchange. More than 71,000 people pledged, and 94 percent were federal workers. Only those who were confirmed to have actually teleworked at least one day of the week were counted.

Overall, the study found greater satisfaction and fewer challenges associated with the practice, compared to previous years.

Participants filled out a questionnaire when they registered for Telework Week and completed an online survey after its conclusion. Surveys were sent both to individuals and organizations, and the average participant teleworked two days out of a possible five. One in five organizations surveyed reported encountering challenges like technical issues during the week, down from one in three in 2011.

Additionally, 71 percent of organizations reported increased productivity as a result of telework in 2012, versus 60 percent in 2011.

Despite greater enthusiasm toward the benefits of teleworking, the study reported that the number of management teams more open to and encouraging of telework rose only slightly, from 60 percent to 62 percent. Telework Exchange General Manager Cindy Auten acknowledged the slower growth, saying more palpable results would be evident in five years with the advent of more telework-centric pilot programs.

“This is the one that takes the most patience to get because it’s a cultural change. I guess I wasn’t as surprised to see the needle move just slightly on it,” Auten said. The challenge now is to get management to think about employees in different metrics. “How do you manage based on work output as opposed to time and attendance?” she noted.

Telework Exchange estimates the government would save $5 billion if all eligible federal employees teleworked twice a week for one year.

Awards were set to be presented Wednesday afternoon to five agencies that have shown exceptional support for telework. Auten spotlighted the General Services Administration and the Agriculture Department as two federal agencies with “aggressive and tremendous” telework initiatives. The Patent and Trademark Office, which has had teleworkers for 15 years, is an “innovator” in the field, she said. The winners of this year’s awards won’t be announced until 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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