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2013 federal telework numbers troubling

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Legislation passed in 2000 required federal workers to telework “to the maximum extent possible.” The Telework Enhancement Act passed in 2010 put teeth in the earlier legislation. Yet the 2013 Status of Telework in the Federal Government report showed that only 8% do so on a regular basis (up from 6% in 2012) although 45% of federal employees are deemed eligible for telework (up from 32% in 2013).

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey also tracks telework participation, but only among those who do so at least half time. While Census’ latest numbers (2012) show federal telework participation ahead of private sector (3.3% of the workforce among federal employees, 2.6% of private for-profit employees, and 2.9% of non-profit employees), the trends suggest trouble ahead.

Private sector telework grew 42% between 2006 and 2012 and state government telework grew 60%, but federal telework actually declined 2.4%.

If effectively implemented by the federal government, telework could save taxpayers over $10 billion a year. Greenhouse gas emission would be reduced by the equivalent of planting 21 million trees. And government employees would be more engaged, more productive, and more effective.

The potential impacts that produce the savings were calculated using Global Workplace Analytics’ Federal Telework Savings Calculator™. The calculator includes over 100 variables and more than 600 calculations. The methodology and details on the benefits calculated are described in a free white paper titled, Federal Telework—Return on Taxpayer Investment.

Based on very conservative assumptions (outlined in the federal ROI white paper), Global Workplace Analytics estimates that if the 882,000 federal employees who are both eligible for telework (47% of the federal workforce) and say they would telework if allowed (87% of the federal workforce) did so at the same average frequency as those who telework now (2.2 days a week) the triple bottom line impact would include:

  • Real Estate and Energy Savings: $1.7 billion/year
  • Absenteeism and Turnover Savings: $1.7 billion/year
  • Increased Productivity: $6 billion/year
  • Transit Subsidies: $196 million/year
  • Continuity of Operations: $515 million/year
  • Healthcare: $90 million/year
  • Greenhouse Gas Reduction: equivalent of planting 21 million trees/year*
  • Cost of Traffic Accidents Avoided: $153 million/year
  • Employee Savings: Average of $2,300/year** each and time saving equivalent of 10 workdays/year (time they would have otherwise spent in traffic)

The assumptions behind the model are based on a database of over 4,000 case studies and other documents. Home energy usage and errand trips taken on telework days, among other factors, are also accounted for in the model.

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