Survey: More U.S. gov't employees teleworking

Federal employees with the option to telecommute were found to be happier with their jobs

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

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

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

Telecommuting provides several benefits, including employee satisfaction and retention, said Max Peterson, vice president of CDW-G's federal division. Having telecommuting plans in place can allow federal agencies to function in times of natural disaster or terrorism attacks, and it can help relieve congested roadways and combat air pollution in the Washington, D.C., area, he said.

Telecommuting can save employees' gas money and give them some flexibility in dealing with personal issues, he added. "As the federal 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 telecommute said the elimination of their commute was a major reason; another 68 percent said great work flexibility was also a major reason.

Despite the benefits, telecommuting raises some concerns among federal IT workers, the survey said. Fifty-three percent said information security is the biggest challenge associated with telecommuting. The second and third largest concerns were service and support (26 percent) and collaboration (16 percent).

A change in organizational attitude remains a hurdle at some agencies, Peterson said, even though the U.S. Congress passed a law in 2000 requiring federal agencies to create plans where eligible employees "may participate in telecommuting to the maximum extent possible without diminished employee performance."

"Technology is only part of the answer," Peterson said. "To be successful, we've got to work from telework capability to telework in action."

Other results from the survey:

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

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

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

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