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Two-thirds of government workers now telecommute: survey

Posting in Government

The government's massive move to telework provides a huge living laboratory to study the issues that arise as organizations move to remote, networking workforces.

A new survey of 257 employees -- mainly government workers -- finds a majority have taken advantage of the federal workplace telecommuting mandate put into place last year, which stipulates that all eligible employees be granted opportunities to work from home or remotely.

The survey, conducted by Microsoft, finds that 67% of federal employees indicate they work remotely at least some of the time. A third of this group feel that their job satisfaction and productivity have increased since starting their telecommute. The ‘‘Telework Enhancement Act of 2010,’’ required federal agencies to develop telecommuting policies for their employees, and by law, all eligible federal employees must be given the option to telecommute.

Such a massive move to telework provides a great working, living laboratory to study and iron out any issues that arise as organizations move to remote, networking workforces.  Here are some of the findings:

Telecommuting is also a handy recruiting tool. Among those that still have limited or no telework opportunities, 50% report they would strongly consider a career move if another comparable opportunity arose that included a more robust telework policy.

Communication is an issue. The survey finds that 33%  of respondents said that telework gets in the way of team collaboration and that working effectively requires face time. Other concerns related to
remote work include 19% citing difficulties in scheduling meetings (hey, what's wrong with that?). Another 15% say locating documents that are being managed by remote workers is a challenge. (That could be very problematic.)

Management still not convinced. Less than half, 47%, say their bosses are offering enthusiastic support for telecommuting. Another 25% say their bosses are not happy about it, and 28% say their bosses are clueless.

Teleworkers use email, but desire other ways to keep in touch. Another 15% say an issue with their telework arrangements is figuring out the best way to reach colleagues. Actually, email seems to be the most prevalent method, used most often by 49% of telecommuters. another 22% use the phone, and 21% set up face-to-face meetings to keep the workflow going. What they would like more of is increased capabilities in online document sharing (33%) and the ability to videoconference (32%).

Not clear is the depth of social media adoption.  The Microsoft survey finds only three percent of the telecommuters use social media channels to keep in touch, but other surveys find more widespread adoption.

A separate survey finds social media adoption is also gaining within federal government agencies. Four in ten federal employees say they started using social media within the past year. Overall, the study of 900 employees of federal agencies and contractors from Market Connections finds, organizations increasingly allow employees to represent their agencies or companies using social media. More than one third of federal employees reported representing their agencies in social media use, a significant increase from 9% in 2010.

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure