Telework increases among govt employees

Forty-three percent of U.S. government employees sometimestelecommute instead of driving into the office, up from 19 percenta year ago, according to a survey released Monday.

The survey, released by government-focused IT vendor CDWGovernment Inc. (CDW-G), found that 28 percent of federal ITworkers surveyed said they believe that their agency provides ITsupport to all eligible teleworkers, up from just 5 percent ofrespondents in 2005.

The survey, of 542 U.S. government workers and another 235federal IT professionals, found that federal employees with theoption to telecommute are happier with their jobs. Ninety-oneperson of those with the option to telecommute were either verysatisfied or satisfied with their jobs, compared to 80 percent ofthose employees who did not have the option. Eighty-four percent offederal government employees would telecommute if given the option,the survey said.

Telecommuting provides several benefits, including employeesatisfaction and retention, said Max Peterson, vice president ofCDW-G’s federal division. Having telecommuting plans in place canallow federal agencies to function in times of natural disaster orterrorism attacks, and it can help relieve congested roadways andcombat air pollution in the Washington, D.C., area, he said.

Telecommuting can save employees’ gas money and give them someflexibility in dealing with personal issues, he added. “As thefederal government tries to hire and maintain a quality workforce,telework can be a significant benefit,” Peterson said.

Eighty percent of federal employees who prefer to telecommutesaid the elimination of their commute was a major reason; another68 percent said great work flexibility was also a major reason.

Despite the benefits, telecommuting raises some concerns amongfederal IT workers, the survey said. Fifty-three percent saidinformation security is the biggest challenge associated withtelecommuting. The second and third largest concerns were serviceand support (26 percent) and collaboration (16 percent).

A change in organizational attitude remains a hurdle at someagencies, Peterson said, even though the U.S. Congress passed a lawin 2000 requiring federal agencies to create plans where eligibleemployees “may participate in telecommuting to the maximum extentpossible without diminished employee performance.”

“Technology is only part of the answer,” Peterson said. “To besuccessful, we’ve got to work from telework capability to teleworkin action.”

Other results from the survey:

— In 2006, 46 percent of federal IT professionals said theiragencies have written IT policies for telework, compared to 34percent in 2005.

— Fifty-four percent of federal employees said their managersview telework favorably, compared to 45 percent in 2005.

— For federal workers who would not telecommute if given theoption, 47 percent said isolation is the primary deterrent,followed by 42 percent who simply do not want to be at home.