Teleworking gains momentum across federal agencies

The private sector paved the way for the teleworking trend several years back, as the introduction of remote access policies served as the next logical step toward enterprise flexibility following new technologies such as the cloud, smartphones and applications built for mobility. Now, that trend is sweeping the federal environment, as agency leaders recognize the massive productivity advantages inherent to these approaches. IT has also ramped up its efforts to support these initiatives with infrastructure optimization methods. Teleworking is slowly but surely making strides.

Power in numbers While the vast majority of federal employees still operate from their in-office workstations, the number working from remote locations is on the rise, according to a recent article from NextGov. The source pointed to a report from the Office of Personnel Management titled the "Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey," revealing an upward trend in teleworking rates over the past several years.

Four percent of workers stated they utilize remote access capabilities three or more days a week, up from 1 percent last year. Ten percent said they take advantage of this opportunity two times a week, while 11 percent said they only telework on rare occasion, each revealing a 1 percent increase. However, thought leaders think there is an ideal balance of in-office and teleworking for maximum benefit, especially in the federal environment which requires close-knit teams and frequent communication.

"As employees and their managers get familiar with working remotely, they begin to do it more frequently," said Kate Lister, president of the consultancy Global Workplace Analytics, according to the news source. "The 'sweet spot' both in terms of the benefits (i.e. real estate savings, increased productivity, and reduced absenteeism and turnover) tends to be two to three days a week. That gives people a good mix of the benefits of being alongside their colleagues and working remotely."

Overall satisfaction Although teleworking hasn't overshadowed conventional methods of workplace participation, those who do choose to work remotely revealed that their employers' policies are for the most part effective and easy to use. The OPM survey showed that 77 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their agencies' current telework offerings, a 1 percent increase from last year and 7 percent jump from 2011. Infrastructure is also making improvements, as technological challenges inhibiting remote access were cited by only 5 percent of those surveyed, dropping from 6 percent over the past two years.

This bodes well for organizations seeking next-generation talent attracted to flexible work policies and tech-driven environments, according to a FedTech article highlighting OPM's report. With veteran employees leaving the workforce in droves, millennials must be incentivized to enter the federal arena, and mobile enablement is a compelling factor for many of these candidates.

"In addition, agencies have found that telework is both an attractive option when attempting to recruit and retain the best employees and an important agency tool that can be utilized to address work space issues and transit costs," the OPM survey stated, according to the news source.

Room for improvement There's no doubt that teleworking will play an even larger role in the federal environment as Generation Y saturates the workforce and employees demand more flexible policies from agencies. In light of these trends, decision-makers across agencies must focus on developing stronger remote access programs from technological and operational standpoints, especially if they anticipate a shortage of support from the up-and-coming generations.

Employing strategies such as virtualization and deploying dedicated mobile device management solutions are two powerful ways to ensure a forward-thinking mobile blueprint. However these initiatives are coordinated, support from stakeholders and a proven service provider will be key to success.