Interesting insights from the recent U.S. OPM report on telework
The U.S. government tries to take a forward-leaning approach to workforce flexibility. In the 1990’s, the government offered “flex Fridays” and other flexible scheduling arrangements that enabled workers to put in longer hours most days in exchange for extra days off to relieve the gridlock of Washington D.C. traffic. More recently, the government has been advancing the status of remote working.
In 2010, Congress passed the Telework Enhancement Act that required every U.S. government agency to establish a policy under which eligible Federal employees could telework. Each year, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issues a report detailing the status of Federal teleworkers. The 2016 report was published in November 2017 and contains some interesting benchmarks.
More than 40% of employees are eligible, but only half of them choose to work remotely
Last year, 42% of all Federal employees were eligible for telework programs—nearly 900,000 workers. The percentage of eligible employees across government has remained relatively stable for five years.
Source: U.S. OPM
Currently, 51% of Federal employees who are eligible for telework actually work from home. Participation has increased steadily over time, from just 29% of eligible workers participating in 2012 to more than half today. Reasons for the increased participation ranged from greater awareness of the program by employees to agencies’ real estate reduction plans.
Federal employees work remotely at varying frequencies
Most Federal employees do not telework all of the time. The most common form of participation is situational telework—used by 48% of all teleworkers. This would include people working from home in order to concentrate on a big project, or avoiding the office because they (or their children) are ill. Other employees maintain a regular schedule of teleworking. One-third work from home three or more days in each two week period.
Most agencies cannot measure cost savings of remote work
Cost savings were a key goal of the Federal government’s effort to promote remote work, as is true at many corporations. Some agencies could demonstrate a significant cost savings associated with telework programs—notably the Office of Homeland Security, General Services Administration, and Patent Office each reported savings greater than $30 million. However, 56% of agencies could not report their cost savings at all. Of those that failed to report savings, the most common reasons were the lack of a system to track telework cost savings, lack of access to the right data, lack of skills or resources, and difficulty isolating telework costs.
Agencies have a wide variety of goals for telework programs
Each agency sets goals for the impact of telework programs. The goals vary from one agency to the next, but in general, goals fall into these categories:
- Physical workspace: reduce real estate footprint and costs
- Environmental impact: reduce commute miles and/or energy costs
- Productivity: Facilitate completion of specific projects and reduce distractions
- Employee attitudes: strengthen employee engagement and accountability
- Emergency preparedness: provide continuity of operations during closures
- Talent management: use as a benefit to aid recruiting and retention
To reduce the cost of real estate, four agencies are employing office hoteling in addition to encouraging greater use of telework programs. In a description of cost savings achieved by 11 of the 89 agencies surveyed, more than $71 million was saved in rent or office space.
Employee surveys reveal impact on employee attitudes
The report also detailed survey results from employees about telework participation, satisfaction, and attitudes. For employees who telework, 79% are satisfied or very satisfied with the program. Most teleworkers (61%) are between 40-59 years old and 43% have 15 or more years of tenure with the government. Having the flexibility to telework improves employees’ self-reported attitudes about accountability, engagement, retention, and innovation.
In order to gauge the effectiveness of remote work programs, organizations must be able to assess the full impact on costs and employee performance. Asure Software’s Human Resource Management solutions helps organizations track time and attendance and assess employee engagement, while our Workspace Management solutions analyze office utilization, manage mobile employees, and streamline office hoteling.