Looks Like Telework Bill Will Make It into Law

Ann All
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Telecommuting's Powerful Benefits

More than 34 million Americans telecommute at least occasionally. While it might not be for everyone, the future of telework appears bright.

Like many others (I suspect), I am sick of the overt partisanship in politics today. Thus I was bugged to see Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) calling the Democratic-sponsored Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (H.R. 1722) a "new bureaucratic mandate within the federal regime." Despite his negative take on the bill, it passed the House yesterday in a 254-152 vote, reports The Washington Post.


For proof of the political nature of Republican opposition, see the comment from a reader named Dawn on my blog post about an earlier version of the bill that didn't pass the House. As Dawn noted, the bill was essentially the same as one introduced by Republicans under the Bush administration. She wrote:


... I am a Republican, but I have been watching this bill for quite some time. Also, S 707 (a telework bill in the Senate) was approved unanimously and has been held at the desk in the senate since May 25 2010 (approx).. why??? At this point it just appears that neither side is interested in passing a telework bill that will save huge amounts of taxpayers' money in addition to the many MANY benefits of people working from home. As we are about to enter the "lame duck" season one has to wonder if our government has any ability to pass laws in a timely manner, or for that fact at all...


As the Post reports, the Republicans' chief opposition to the bill is the $30 million the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will cost the federal government over five years to make administrative changes designed to retool agency processes to make them more friendly to teleworkers. Democrats counter the potential for savings far outweighs the $30 million price tag. The article cites the example of the Patent and Trademark office, considered an agency leader in telework efforts, which consolidated nearly 50,000 square feet of office space, reducing its annual rent expenses by $1.5 million. It also was able to forgo spending $11 million for additional office space.


According to the Telework Research Network, while 61 percent of the federal workforce holds a job suited to telework, less than 8 percent of them telework regularly. Using assumptions from a 2006 Booz Allen study conducted for the U.S. General Services Administration, the Telework Research Network says federal agencies could enjoy some serious cost savings by:

  • Boosting productivity by $4.6 billion a year
  • Shaving $850 million a year off real estate, electricity and related costs
  • Reducing absenteeism to save $2.3 billion a year
  • Lowering employee turnover to save $3.1 billion a year


Since the bill already passed the Senate, it now heads to President Obama for his approval. (It's a safe bet he'll sign it, as his administration has been a key supporter of telework, promoting the idea that it may help federal agencies attract younger workers interested in more flexible work environments.)


Within 180 days of the legislation's enactment, agencies must determine which employees are eligible for telework and notify all those employees of the option. The bill requires participants to complete telework training programs and also to sign a written agreement regarding their remote work. The legislation also requires managers to treat teleworkers and their office-bound colleagues equally when it comes to performance evaluations, promotions, rewards, discipline and the like. Each agency will appoint a telework managing officer.


The structure of a written agreement between teleworkers and their employers is a good idea. It's one of six tips for launching a telecommuting programstory on telework offered by Gevity, a provider of human resources software that I interviewed for a .

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 23, 2010 8:42 AM Kevin Kevin  says:

I'm a patent examiner and I've been working from home for 4 1/2 years now.   I think we have more than 1500 examiners working from home full-time (about 25% of examiners).  The main reason telework is successful for us is because we have always had a production quota and periodic quality reviews of our work.   This is a solitary job that lends itself to little supervision and collaboration, but when necessary collaboration can be done easily through email.

After we converted our applications from paper files to electronic files in 2003, consultations happened more often via email.  Several people could view a patent application at the same time instead of one examiner carrying a paper file to another examiner's office.  So for collaborations there was less reason for me to leave my office and less need others to visit my office.  The natural progression of this was for me to sit at a computer desk at home instead of at work.

I gladly gave up a 150 sq. ft. window office to work from home. My stress levels dropped as if every work day was a Saturday.  My sick leave use dropped quite a bit, plus I can work overtime from home.  I use a lot less gas but that's offset by electricity use at home to keep the temperature comfortable all day.

The only problem for me now is the connection speed to the main campus and the speed of my 'virtual workstation'.  Although I have 40 Mbps FIOS service, the connection to work is restricted to 1.5 Mbps.  Hopefully soon I'll have a faster connection and faster virtual workstation to give a similar experience to what I had when I was in the office.

Nov 24, 2010 10:42 AM Ann All Ann All  says: in response to Kevin

Thanks for your comments, Kevin. I've been working at home several days a week for a decade. As you point out, I think it works best for folks that have clear work objectives like a production quota. It helps if employees are self-directed and require no direct supervision, as is the case for both you and me. For me, collaboration occurs largely via IM, whether I am in the office or at home. I do come in for regular meetings and think that helps build camaraderie w/ my coworkers. My experiences w/ stress levels, sick time and overtime also sound pretty similar to yours.


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