A Fact Sheet
Joanne B. Shore
sometimes called telecommuting or flexiplace, is the act of
performing work away from the traditional centralized office
environment. Modern technological advances have made it easier
to work anytime, anywhere, and anyplace. In fact, technology
has been one of the driving forces behind teleworking's popularity.
is not a new concept. For example, the term "telecommuting"
itself was coined back in the early 1970's to describe the
potential for replacing the physical commute to work with
benefits the employer, the employee, and society overall.
For the employer, telework can provide the ability to attract
and retain skilled workers. It also can result in increased
employee satisfaction and productivity, reduced absenteeism,
reduced overhead costs, and decreased office space.
Federal agencies have saved jobs from budget cuts by allowing
employees to work at alternative worksites, thereby reducing
space and facility costs.
example, during FY95, the Department of Education faced the
need to close several satellite offices, one of which was
the Office of the Inspector General field investigators and
auditors. Many of these workers were long-term valuable employees
whose positions still served a vital function in the agency.
Education was able to use teleworking to provide a workable
solution. The agency directed funds toward establishing hoteling
space (shared space) at the 5 regional areas. With the expense
of larger office spaces reduced to that of hoteling space,
Education saved approximately 24 jobs.
the employee, telework can mean reduced commuting time
and stress, reduced job-related costs, and a more productive
work environment. For society, telework can lead to reduced
traffic congestion, air pollution, and highway costs; improved
accommodation for people with disabilities; and a more "family-friendly"
the Federal government, telework has had the support of President
Clinton, Vice President Gore, and the President's Management
Council. Both the National Partnership for Reinventing Government
(NPR) and President Clinton's Climate Change Action Plan identified
telecommuting as one solution to accommodate the demand for
increased mobility and to enhance worker satisfaction. In
his memorandum of July 1994 and subsequent correspondence,
President Clinton directed federal agencies to support telecommuting
and satellite work locations as a way to expand family-friendly
work arrangements throughout the Executive Branch. In a 1997
memorandum to all Federal agencies, Vice President Gore mentioned
the need "
to make telecommuting more readily available
to our workers." The National Telecommuting Initiative, co-led
by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the
U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), is a nationwide effort
endorsed by the President's Management Council to increase
the number of Federal workers who telework. The NTI, which
was initiated in 1996, is still the primary governmentwide
program. Since the NTI did not meet its initial goal of establishing
a workforce of 60,000 Federal teleworkers by October 1998,
GSA and DOT are taking steps to reenergize this important
initiative. According to a 1998 report by the Office of Personnel
Management, there are over 25,000 teleworkers in the Federal
has also played a role in supporting telework within the Federal
government. In September of 1992, Congress authorized GSA
to set aside $5 million to:
year later, Congress modified that legislation by increasing
the appropriation to $6 million. The project born of this
appropriation became known as the Interagency Telecommuting
to the success and popularity of the Interagency Telecommuting
Pilot Project, Congress appropriated another $5 million in
1995 for the expansion and continuation of the telecommuting
center project in the metropolitan Washington area. GSA then
began establishing partnerships in several localities around
Washington, D.C. to plan, manage, and promote the telecommuting
effort in their geographic areas. In October of 1998, Congress
passed an Appropriations Bill that included $2.1 million for
the acquisition, lease, construction, and equipping of "flexiplace
important telework-related initiatives are now underway. The
White House and GSA are undertaking efforts to establish better
links between telework and emergency preparedness. Congressman
Frank Wolf of Virginia has recently introduced to Congress
"The National Telecommuting and Air Quality Act." This Act
would establish an air pollution credits trading program.
It would offer organizations credits for avoiding nitrogen
oxides emitted from vehicles if they let their employees telework
or participate in other pollution-reducing initiatives.
Do Teleworkers Work?
can be found at a variety of alternate work sites.
Office: "Virtual office" is just what it sounds like.
With a portable computer, pager, and cellular phone, as needed,
a "mobile" worker can work anywhere; such as at home, while
traveling, or at a customer's site.
offers a service called "Office
Anywhere" to help Federal agencies find solutions to their
virtual office problems.
"Hoteling" refers to "shared" workstations,
which consist of a work surface, computer, and telephone,
and are for use by employees who are working temporarily or
part time in a specific place and/or on a specific project
or who work in an environment where employees have flexible
hours. They are generally located within an existing office
environment, so that users have access to other equipment
such as copiers, printers, and fax machines.
A telework center, or "telecenter", is a multi-agency
facility that provides a geographically convenient office
setting as an alternative to the customer or worker's home
or the main office. The center may contain cubicles, open
workspaces, conference areas, and even individual offices
of varying sizes. Equipment and services may also include
personal computers with software and modems for connecting
to the employees agency network and the Internet: shared
fax machines, printers, copiers, and other office equipment;
and telephone systems with voice mail, teleconferencing and
video conferencing capabilities.
Greater Washington, D.C. Area - including Virginia, Maryland,
and West Virginia - currently has a total of 18 telecenters
open serving about 350 Federal employees and 50 private sector
workers. Information about arranging to work at these centers
and the fee structure is available on the
Project Overview site. Telecenters are also located in
California, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, and New
York. Contact information and a nationwide listing of telecenters
and hoteling opportunities are available on the Interagency
Offices: A home-based office should be a well-defined
area that contains all the furniture, equipment and supplies
the individual needs to work from home.A home-based office
should be as safe to work in as any office provided by an
employer and as distraction-free as possible.
every job has some work that is suitable for teleworking.In
fact, the variety of jobs open to teleworkers is almost endless
- writers, editors, artists, engineers, programmers, customer
service personnel, telemarketers, inventors, purchasing agents,
stockbrokers, desktop publishers, trainers, financial analysts,
detectives, accountants, claims processors, systems analysts,
translators, travel agents, designers, information brokers,
journalists, market researchers.
addition, teleworking, supported by electronic government
and computer technology, can provide reasonable accommodation
for an employee covered under the provisions of the Americans
with Disabilities Act.
made a big difference to Cynthia Clark, a Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) employee. "In March of 1998, I was
diagnosed with multiple sclerosis," she said. "Teleworking
was recommended to reduce the frequency of MS relapses caused
by fatigue and stress. I telework from home three days a week.
With the support of [my] management, along with a remote application
manager that connects me to FAA's host computer, E-mail, voice
mail, telephone, and a fax machine, teleworking has enhanced
my quality of life. The benefits of my at-home work environment
are improved health and fitness, balance between the demands
of work and family, increased productivity, reduced commuting
time and costs, reduced absence, and elevated job satisfaction.
Telecommuting has eliminated my concern with early disability
retirement. It works for me!"
supervisor is equally pleased.
is not limited to certain industries, though high-tech companies
probably lead the way. Teleworking programs are found in all
sectors including banking, law, insurance, manufacturing,
utilities, government -even oil companies and the automobile
industry. In addition, teleworking is international in nature
- Canada, Japan, Australia, and Europe all have teleworking
programs. The number of teleworkers nationwide is now 15.7
million, according to a survey completed by a New York research
and consulting firm called Cyber Dialogue.
Telecommuting Safety & Health Benefits Institute (TSHBI)
provides information on "telework-friendly" organizations.
to a 1997 AT&T Survey of Teleworker Attitudes and Work
Styles conducted by FIND/SVP and Joanne H. Pratt Associates,
teleworkers average 11 days a month working at home. Teleworking
employees usually spend part of their workweek in the regular
office to improve communication, minimize isolation, and use
facilities not readily available offsite. Still, there are
some individuals who prefer full-time teleworking and coming
to the office for meetings.
potential teleworker should make a list of the various responsibilities
that his or her job requires and consider the job in terms
of tasks and projects. For example, tasks such as research,
planning, and writing can be done away from the office. Jobs
that are project-driven also lend themselves to teleworking.
for teleworkers is key to sustaining good relationships with
their fellow workers, customers, and/or managers.The following
tips can help to ensure teleworking success:
home) Designate a separate work space
regular communication with your manager
more and more companies and Federal agencies institute telework
programs, they need to consider the impact these programs
have on their workforce. Though many organizations foster
unofficial teleworking, a more prudent approach is to identify
potential legal pitfalls and then develop and communicate
clear workplace policies to handle them. These
policies define expectations for the teleworker. Consider
the following elements for inclusion in a telework policy:
criteria for remote work candidates
on work time, required core hours and/or required response
pays for what - equipment costs and insurance
work area for worker's compensation
and reporting requirements
right to inspect workplace upon reasonable advance notice
rights of employer
of employer intellectual property
of all existing employer policies and procedures to teleworkers
further information on telework, visit the following internet
(The Mining Company): This site contains general information
Department of Energy: The state of Oregon has a very
active telework program.
Washington Council of Governments Telework Center:
An excellent site for those located in the Metropolitan
International Teleworking & Advisory Council (ITAC):
ITAC is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting
the economic, social and environmental benefits of teleworking.
The organization's site includes links to other teleworking
organizations, resources, articles, membership form, studies,
and conference information. The site also includes information
on TELECOMMUTE AMERICA, a nationwide effort to promote
General Services Administration: This site contains
policies, reports, and reference material for the Federal
Telework Association: Lots of information on teleworking
and related issues.
Washington Metropolitan Telework Centers: A description
of the centers in the Greater Washington area, with links
to each center's web page.
Evaluation & Innovative Workplaces Division
Office of Real Property
Office of Governmentwide Policy
U.S. General Services Administration
1800 F St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20405
of a Telecommuter