THE EVOLVING FEDERAL ROLE IN TELECOMMUTING By Edward Weiner Mobility and Infrastructure Team Leader Office of the Secretary U.S. Department of Transportation firstname.lastname@example.org And Robert Stein Senior Policy Analyst Office of the Secretary U.S. Department of Transportation email@example.com February 1, 2005 Weiner and Stein 2 THE EVOLVING FEDERAL ROLE IN TELECOMMUTING By Edward Weiner and Robert Stein Abstract The evolving Federal role in telecommuting occurred in several stages. Early activity consisted of small scale pilots and experiments conducted separately by individual Federal agencies. A second stage featured the first government wide Flexiplace pilot, focused on work-at-home arrangements. A third stage introduced Federal telecommuting centers (telecenters). The National Telecommuting Initiative government wide initiative contained ambitious goals for telecommuting by Federal employees. By this time, the Federal government began focusing on promoting telecommuting as a travel demand management technique. Federal funds and technical assistance were made available to established State and local telecommuting programs. Most recently, Federal legislation required all Federal agencies to establish telecommuting programs. Weiner and Stein 3 THE EVOLVING FEDERAL ROLE IN TELECOMMUTING By Edward Weiner and Robert Stein Introduction The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has been seeking new ways to provide transportation service in a cost effective manner consistent with the nation's environmental and economic goals. This has proven to be quite a challenge because the growth in travel, particularly in urban areas, has outpaced the nation‟s ability to provide adequate capacity to serve it. This situation has provided an opportunity for telecommuting to contribute to reducing congestion and air pollution while meeting the needs of employees and employers. Telecommuting is currently of particular interest to public agencies struggling to relieve local highway congestion and meet legislative mandates for improved air quality. For them, telecommuting is an important Transportation Demand Management (TDM) tool--a strategy that can reduce congestion by eliminating a trip or shifting it out of the peak travel period. Other strategies include car, van and bus pools, public transit, traffic information systems, transportation management operations tools, compressed work weeks, and flexible work schedules. In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, telecommuting has taken on a new, increased emphasis in light of proposals to create a less targetable, more dispersed workforce. Private industry and public agencies displaced by the attacks have relied upon telecommuting to restore needed operations, while others are examining telecommuting as an alternative to traditional centralized work spaces. DOT has long been a leader in promoting telecommuting as a travel demand measure to decrease highway congestion and reduce air pollution. Telecommuting includes a variety of non- standard employment arrangements allowing employees to work at home or at other nearby locations. Telecommuting programs can offer benefits to employers and employees by reducing office space needs, improving productivity, and allowing greater flexibility for individual workers. By removing vehicles from the highways during peak periods, telecommuting can help communities reduce congestion levels and accidents, improve air quality, and decrease energy consumption. Definitions Telecommuting, also known as teleworking, means using information technology and telecommunications to replace work-related travel. Simply put, it means working at home or closer to home. With telecommuting, employees work at home or perhaps at a local telework center one or more days per week. Communication is accomplished by phone, fax, modem, and teleconferencing. Nationwide, more than 23 million workers are going to work simply by picking up the phone or turning on their computers. (Shirazi, et. al., 2001) Telecommuting, or telework, or flexiplace, encompasses a wide range of non-traditional work arrangements that move work to people rather than people to work, is being driven by a number of factors. Business and government agencies continue to pursue ways to enhance productivity, reduce costs, and remain competitive in the local, national, and international marketplace. Employees are concerned about accomplishing work requirements in a timely and quality fashion, while balancing job and family responsibilities. Finally, issues relating to traffic congestion, air quality, the environment, and quality of life continue to be concerns throughout the country. At Weiner and Stein 4 the same time, rapid advancements in telecommunications and computer technologies have greatly enhanced our ability to communicate and work across long distances. While telecommuting is a relatively new approach to work arrangements, the extent of such programs, the various techniques used, the benefits and limitations of different approaches, the keys to successful programs, and other related issues are beginning to become more widely known and documented. Further, the roles that Federal, state, and local governments are playing to promote telecommuting are also becoming much more significant. Early Federal Involvement The evolution of Federal telecommuting activities occurred in several stages. One of the earliest government wide policies relating to Federal telecommuting was in 1957 when the Comptroller General approved payment of salaries, on a case-by-case basis, to Federal employees for work done at home. (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1992). The earliest effort to generate a Federal telecommuting program, however, appears to have occurred in the early 60's when Jack Nilles, commonly considered to be the father of telework, began teleworking from Los Angeles to Washington, DC while working as a consulting rocket scientist to the US Air Force Space Program. Inspired by this experience, Nilles coined both the words “telecommuting” and “teleworking” in 1973. He began promoting the value and importance of the concept and thus gave birth to the telework movement. The first person to generate Federal experimentation with telecommuting was Frank Schiff. At the time, Schiff was Vice President and Chief Economist for the Committee for Economic Development. In 1979, Schiff published an article in the Washington Post in which he challenged the Federal Government to look at management practices, union rules, and Federal laws and regulations in an effort to facilitate working at home as a means of improving productivity, saving costs, and saving energy (this was at the height of the energy crisis during that period). During that same time, Schiff coined the term “Flexiplace” to “encompass not only work-at-home but also such other flexible location arrangements as satellite work centers. Flexiplace would be regarded as a natural complement to the already existing Federal „Flexitime‟ program. Moreover, in contrast to such terms as „telecommuting‟, it stressed increased flexibility in the location of work, whether or not this is based on the use of telecommunications equipment.” (Schiff, 1993) Schiff‟s efforts led to a study conducted by the US Office of Personnel Management, “Flexiplace: An Emerging Issue in Federal Employment”: The OPM paper first described the basic rationale for Flexiplace. It cited a 1973 legal opinion by the Civil Service Commission (now OPM) which stated that there were no laws which required Federal employees to perform their work at a particular site. The paper then described various existing or planned experiments with Flexiplace in the private sector as well as the Federal Government....The paper did not make any formal recommendations but was clearly favorable to the Flexiplace concept. Unfortunately, the report came out just five days before the 1980 Presidential election and the entire effort was apparently discontinued when the new Administration took over. (Schiff, 1993) Emergency Use of Telecommuting - The Loma Prieta Earthquake October, 17 1989, brought the Federal Government an early experience with telecommuting as an emergency response strategy. At 5:04 pm that day, the Loma Prieta earthquake severely damaged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 9 office building in San Francisco, displacing nearly 800 employees. EPA responded by establishing an auxiliary command post for 80 employees and work-at-home arrangements for the remaining 700+ workers. By March 1990, 60% of the displaced employees were back in traditional (temporary) workstations while the other 40% continued in Flexiplace awaiting the opening of a new office building. EPA conducted several studies of this experience, learned quite a bit about the Weiner and Stein 5 feasibility and utility of Flexiplace as both a general workplace strategy as well as an emergency response strategy, and continues to use Flexiplace. (Joice, 2000) EPA conducted a study of the results of the emergency telecommuting program and concluded: One long-term effect from the earthquake experience about which there was a great deal of agreement was that there should be some kind of work-at-home policy, Most of the interviewed managers and staff favored continuation of the work-at-home program, While noting that this unplanned and suddenly-implemented program was not an indication of the performance of a normally implemented program, the study pointed out problems such as getting supplies and services, inadequate home environments/space, and psychological discomforts for some of the workers. (National Analysts, 1991). Flexiplace Pilot Project In January of 1990, the President‟s Council on Management Improvement (PCMI) approved and implemented its task force plans and guidelines for a government wide Flexiplace pilot. The “Guidelines for Pilot Flexible Workplace Arrangements” (PCMI, 1990) was a comprehensive document that eventually served as the primary boilerplate for Federal agency Flexiplace policies as well as for numerous private sector and state/local telework programs. The basic tenets of these guidelines are still being used today. (Joice, 2000) Flexiplace implementation plans called for one-year pilot tests to be conducted by participating agencies and evaluated by the OPM. The tests, which were to be conducted over an 18 month period ending in October 1991, were expected to cover between 1500 to 2000 participants. Participation developed slowly. While 30 Federal agencies initially expressed interest in participating, only six agencies actually implemented programs during the first year. Other agencies followed and by the end of 1990 there were about 200 total participants. In January, 1993, OPM published a final report (Joice, 1993) on the work-at-home component of Flexiplace. At that time, approximately 700 Federal employees from 13 agencies were participating in Flexiplace. The report was positive, concluding that Flexiplace was a successful program that provided significant benefits to participating employees. Further, Flexiplace showed promise as an effective mechanism for national efforts regarding work/family, transportation , and energy issues. The report recommended that the PCMI endorse Flexiplace for use by Federal agencies. In October, 1993, OPM sent a memorandum to Federal personnel directors confirming agency authority to utilize Flexiplace arrangements, encouraging agencies to use Flexiplace, and providing guidance on its use. (Joice, 2000) Transportation Implications of Telecommuting The 1992 DOT Appropriations Act required the Department conduct a study of the potential for telecommuting to reduce traffic congestion and the resulting air pollution, energy consumption, accidents, and construction of new transportation facilities. (Weiner, 1994) The study reviewed the trends in telecommunications, and the factors affecting telecommuting. Telecommuting was defined as a worker making an electronic trip instead of a physical trip in a vehicle. Telecommuting could be from a home, a telework center, or from some other remote location. It could occur only one day a week, or for the majority of the week. The level of telecommuting was projected to increase from two million in 1992, to between 7.5 and 15 million telecommuters nationwide by 2002, representing 5.2 to 10.4 percent of the work force. Based on this estimate of telecommuting, between 17.5 and 35 billion vehicle miles of travel would be saved. This reduction in travel would represent between 0.7 and 1.4 per cent of total travel and between 2.3 to 4.5 per cent of commuting work travel. The total hours of travel that would be saved ranged from 826 million to 1.65 billion annually. The travel reduction from Weiner and Stein 6 telecommuting would result in savings of gasoline consumed of 1.1 to 2.1 per cent and a average of 1.5 to 2.8 percent reduction in pollutants of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxides. The study also concluded that telecommunication services and equipment were considered to be adequate for most existing applications of telecommuting, but that high-bandwidth communication capabilities would be useful currently, and would be needed in the future. The estimates in the DOT study were national averages. A second study by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) addressed shortcomings in the DOT study. (U.S. Dept. of Energy, 1994) Several issues were analyzed in the DOE study not addressed in the DOT study. First, was the differential impact in metropolitan areas of different sizes. The study concluded that the impacts would be greater in larger metropolitan areas. The congestion in these areas is more severe and so the impact of telecommuting in reducing congestion would be greater in these large areas and would gradually tail off with urban area size. (Figure 1) Figure 1 - Projected Reduction in Traffic Delays in 339 Urban Areas as a Result of Telecommuting - 2010 Source: U.S. Department of Energy, 1994 Two other issues were of concern: induced travel and urban sprawl. The Department of Transportation study did not make estimates of the factors. First was the question of induced travel. This is a transportation concept that recognizes if traffic congestion was reduced by telecommuting, some travelers would be induced to use the highways who might not otherwise have driven because it was too congested and travel times were too long. As for urban sprawl, there was concern that telecommuters who had to travel to work only a couple of days each might be motivated to move further out and buy a larger and/or less expensive house. The DOE study concluded that even accounting for these factors, there still would be a net benefit in terms of reduce traffic congestion and lower energy consumption. (Figure 2) Weiner and Stein 7 The DOT study made a number of recommendations to advance telecommuting. First, DOT should actively promote telecommuting as a traffic demand measure to reduce the use of automobiles. Second, under The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), telecommuting projects should be eligible for Federal funding to develop telecommuting programs which could include planning, management, organization, promotion, marketing, training, and public awareness campaigns, but not the acquisition and equipping of facilities such as telework centers. These telecommuting programs had to be part of a transportation plan and program developed by State and local agencies. ISTEA did authorize Federal funding of transportation projects or programs having air quality benefits under the Clean Air Act, which would include a wide range of telecommuting activities. DOT proposed to work with State and local governments and the private sector to monitor telecommuting activities and to disseminate relevant information on telecommuting as a travel demand management measures. Federal Telecommuting Centers (Telecenters) The original Flexiplace guidelines called for pilot testing of telecenters as well as work-at-home programs. Because work-at-home programs involved fewer resources and less complexity, the initial phase of Flexiplace focused on work-at- home programs as opposed to telecenters. Historically, the U.S. private sector and other countries began experimenting with telecenters several years before the first Federal experiments. The first neighborhood telecenter opened in France in 1981, and others opened shortly thereafter in Sweden, Switzerland, Jamaica, Japan, and the United Kingdom. These early telecenters were established to slow the pace of rural-to- urban employee migration, to foster economic development, to capitalize on lower wages and operating costs in outlying areas, and to promote a less stressful environment. In 1985, Pacific Bell established the first telecenter in the U.S. (U.S. General Services Administration, 1995) Federal telecenters were first established through appropriations for fiscal year 1993 when Congress designated $5 million to fund telecenters in Maryland and Virginia. Telecenter sites were selected based on GSA's observation that 16,000 Federal employees commuted at least 75 miles each way on congested roads in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. In the Spring of 1993, GSA began working in partnership with State and local governments in the Washington National Capital Area, and by December 1994, the Washington area had four telecenters--one each in Hagerstown, Maryland; Charles County, Maryland; Winchester, Virginia; and Fredericksburg, Virginia. These telecenters had a total of 80 workstations, 143 participants, and a 55 percent utilization rate. Twenty organizations in ten executive branch departments and agencies used these four centers. A survey of employees using the telecenters in 1994 showed that the average round-trip commute distance was 102 miles. The average trip time was two hours and forty minutes. Congress continued to fund telecenters through fiscal year 1996, establishing additional telecenters in the Washington area. In the Washington Metropolitan Area, currently eighteen telework centers have been established. GSA, the agency responsible for Federal buildings, administers this program. Federal agencies rent space in these centers, and the intention is that they will become self-sustaining. The telecommuters need not be Federal employees--they can come from State, local and private employers as well. Telecenters in the Washington, DC pilot provide state-of-the-art equipment that may be better than equipment provided by employers for use at the office or home. Telecenter equipment can include cubicles, open work areas, some private offices, facsimile and copy machines, high speed personal computers and modems, printers, separate voice and data lines, local area. networks, various software packages, and voice mail. Centers often have a site manager to offer technical help to users, and some centers offer video conferencing capabilities. Although none of Weiner and Stein 8 Figure 2 - Direct and Indirect Effects of Telecommuting On Fuel Consumption – 2010 (Billions of Gallons of Gasoline) Source: U.S. Department of Energy, 1994 the Washington area telecenters were affiliated with day care centers, most were in close proximity to such facilities Emergency Use of Telecenters - The Northridge Earthquake In response to the Northridge (California) earthquake in 1994, the Federal Government initiated the first use of telecenters as an emergency response measure. Only weeks after the January 17 earthquake, GSA established three emergency telecenters in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Weiner and Stein 9 These telecenters helped Federal workers avoid commuting on badly damaged roads into Los Angeles for what had become a six-hour round-trip commute for many of them Federal employees were not the only beneficiaries of the markedly reduced commuting time afforded by the California emergency telecenters. Agency customers were also spared the long trip into downtown Los Angeles. For example, taxpayers in the Santa Clarita Valley could get help from Internal Revenue Service employees at the Valencia Telecommuting Center only five or ten minutes away. Similarly, veterans could substitute a tedious drive into west Los Angeles with a short trip to the same facility to receive guidance from a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits counselor. All told, ten Executive Branch Departments or Agencies participated in the Los Angeles area emergency telecenter program. Despite little or no customer input on the location or size of the telecenters, utilization rates at two of the three telecenters were relatively high: the Valencia site (38 workstations) operated at 87 percent of capacity during the emergency while the 29-workstation Westlake site was at 62 percent utilization well into FY 1994. The Sherman Oaks site with 32 workstations was at 34 percent utilization at its peak. GSA made these centers available cost-free to interested agencies through the end of FY 1994 and experienced an overall utilization rate of 63 percent through the emergency period. (Joice, 2000) The goal of the California Federal telecenters was twofold: to serve as an emergency response tool and to continue existing as an on-going telework option. In 1994, however, the emergency Federal telecenters experienced a lesson which had been experienced previously by non-Federal telecenters. Telecenters emerged ahead of their time. In order to get started, most telecenters operated on a subsidy or emergency funding of some sort. This allowed them to price their services at discount rates that were well below market rates and low enough to be a non-issue for employers. To succeed, however, these centers needed to be self-supporting. To achieve such independence, most telecenters eventually tried the obvious route of increasing their fees to market level rates. Raising fees to market levels, however, had the additional impact of putting telecenter fee levels on employer radar screens. Employers were faced with the prospect of paying the now-significant telecenter fees in addition to the ongoing expenses for their teleworkers‟ main office space: thus, employers were paying double overhead for each teleworker using a telecenter. The bottom line result was that the raising of telecenter fees from discounted (subsidized) levels to market levels highlighted the double overhead problem and reduced the number of paying customers. To offset the cost problem, space vacated, partially or fully, by teleworkers at their main place of work would need be released, reconfigured, or sub- leased resulting in cost savings would more than offset the typically lower costs for telecenter workstations. By December of 1994, due to the aforementioned issues, only one of the California emergency Federal telecenters (Valencia) continued to function. Given the mixed-use of this center, serving both telecommuters and customers, and its relatively high utilization rate, the Valencia site was able to continue to function with little or no subsidy. National Telecommuting Initiative The National Performance Review was launched to make the Federal Government more effective, efficient, and responsive to the American people. It developed a wide range of recommendations and actions to make government work better and cost less. Among its recommendations were two directed at telecommuting. It recommended that DOT: implement a telecommuting programs for its employees the DOT , and evaluate the state of telecommuting programs in the private sector. (Clinton and Gore, 1993) Weiner and Stein 10 Later in 1993, the White House published “The Climate Change Action Plan” focusing on environmental issues. Development of telecommuting was one of the plan‟s action areas. The plan assigned EPA and DOT to take a series of actions designed to promote home-based and center-based telecommuting. The plan required that: EPA, in consultation with DOT, issue guidance to states to take pro- telecommuting measures (e.g., reforming local zoning ordinances; giving employers extra credit under trip reduction ordinances, creating and tax incentives; and implementing telecommuting programs for state and local employees); DOT encourage states to use Federally provided transportation funds to initiate or expand telecommuting programs; DOT implement a Federal telecommuting pilot project with the goal of getting one to two percent of Federal employees to work at home at least one day a week; and DOT, in conjunction with other agencies, promote part-time, home-based telecommuting to reduce traffic congestion and promote energy conservation. (Clinton and Gore, 1993) By 1994, it became clear that given the telecommuting responsibilities of DOT and GSA, the two agencies should collaborate in Federal telecommuting activities. DOT had been designated as the lead agency under the National Performance Review and the Global Climate Change Action Plan to promote and evaluate telecommuting in the Federal Government as well as State and local agencies and the private sector. DOT was also given responsibility for issues related to traffic congestion and its effects on air quality, energy consumption and safety. GSA had the primary responsibility for advancing telecommuting by the Federal employees. In a July 1994 memorandum to all Federal agencies, President Clinton adopted the National Performance Review's recommendation that a more family-friendly workplace be created by expanding opportunities for Federal workers to participate in flexible work arrangements. The memorandum directed that each agency: establish a program to encourage and support the expansion of flexible family-friendly work arrangements, including telecommuting and satellite work locations, and identify barriers and recommendations for addressing such barriers to the President's Management Council. (Clinton, 1994) As an initial step in the implementation of this partnership between DOT and GSA, the agencies developed two manuals to assist in implementing Federal telecommuting programs: Implementing Telecommuting: Manual for the Interagency Telecommuting Program and Interagency Telecommuting Program: A Trainer's Guide. (Joice, 1994a and 1994b) Then in 1996, DOT and GSA led a joint effort to give Federal telecommuting a much-needed boost. Under the auspices of the President‟s Management Council (PMC), Federal agencies were directed to increase telecommuting as part of the National Telecommuting Initiative (NTI). The objectives of the NTI were to increase the number of Federal telecommuters, and promote increased telecommuting in State and local governments, and private industry. Lead by DOT and GSA, in conjunction with an interagency taskforce, the NTI became the first government wide telecommuting initiative to set numerical goals: 60,000 Federal telecommuters by October 1998 and 160,000 by the end of 2002. (President‟s Management Council, 1996) There was much activity in the early stages of the NTI which was to be a five phase program including: initial surveys of telecommuters and agency resources, logistical preparation, promotion, implementation, and evaluation. In 1995, the Federal National Telecommuting Initiative identified 30 additional cities for telecommuting projects based on such factors as air pollution, the potential for improved customer service, the size of the local Federal community, Weiner and Stein 11 and geography. As of 1997, twenty GSA-funded telecenters existed nationwide in cities such as Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco. As a result of this initiative, the number of Federal employees that participated in formal telecommuting programs nationwide increased from 3,000 in 1995, to 9,000 in 1996, and to an estimated 25,000 in 1998. The resulting rate of telecommuting in 1998 was 1.6 percent of the Federal workforce. Best Practices of Telecommuting Programs In DOT's FY 1996 Appropriations Act, the Department, in consultation with the Department of Labor and EPA, was directed by Congress to "...carry out research to identify successful telecommuting programs in the public and private sectors and provide for the dissemination to the public of information regarding the establishment of successful telecommuting programs and the benefit and cost of telecommuting." In this study, a number of case studies were examined which provide insight into the components of successful telecommuting programs. Although not present in every case study, a number of elements occurred frequently enough to indicate that they should be considered in developing a model telecommuting program. The following elements were found to be important in maximizing the potential benefits of telecommuting to employees and employers. (U.S. Department of Transportation, 1997) Top Management Support - Support from top management is critical to the development and implementation of a telecommuting program. Management must be willing to provide necessary financial support, as well as any changes in policies and procedures for telecommuting. Employee Interest and Support - Interest from employees is critical to the success of telecommuting programs, and must be promoted at the staff level. Employee groups may be encouraged to conduct background research, develop draft policies and programs, and pursue pilot tests within their own organization. Early inclusion and involvement of and support of labor unions are critical. Clearly Articulate Policies and Guidelines - Establish formal guidelines governing the telecommuting program. These policies identify the expectations of both employees and management, and outline the specific requirements such as productivity/accomplishments expected, work area, work hours, communications with the office, and other items. Support from Human Resource/Personnel Department - Support is important to ensure that both management and employees are able to obtain assistance during the implementation of a telecommuting program, as well as on an ongoing basis. Selection of Job Tasks - Guidelines must identify the types of jobs or job tasks and functions appropriate for telecommuting. Such jobs generally exhibit the following characteristics: Can work tasks be done at home or at a remote work site? Can work tasks be done without on-site or face-to-face interactions? Is equipment required available at home or at a remote work site? Can job objectives be identified and measured? Selection of Telecommuters - Establish employee criteria, including consideration of employee's work habits, for identifying and selecting telecommuters. It is recommended a signed agreement help establish the expectations of both supervisors and telecommuters. The following criteria are often considered: Weiner and Stein 12 Does employee want to participate in a telecommuting program? Is employee self-motivated and a self-starter? Does employee work independently? Does employee work well without supervision? Does employee complete tasks in a timely and professional manner? Does employee have a home office where they can work without interruption? Selection of Managers and Supervisors - The selection of managers and supervisors of telecommuters is as important as identifying telecommuters. Telecommuting may require managers to adopt new or to modify existing management styles and procedures. Employee productivity must be measured by factors other than direct oversight. The same standards that apply in the office apply to those working at home. Manager and employee must be comfortable with the telecommuting arrangement and have established a good working relationship. Establish Communication Methods - Regular and ongoing communication methods must be established, including regular times for phone calls, using emails, and making special arrangements in the case of an emergency. Monitoring and Evaluation - Regularly established, pilot or demonstration programs must have some type of monitoring and evaluation. These evaluations are used to gauge costs and benefits, with the results used in determining the future of the program. An ongoing monitoring system ensures that a telecommuting program continues to provide the desired benefits to both employees and employers. A monitoring program can help identify problems, permit appropriate remedial action to be taken, and can document benefits which may prove important in justifying the program. Equipment and Support - Although extensive equipment may not be necessary, telecommuters often use computers, links to the office, extra telephone lines, fax machines, and pagers. These items may be provided by the employee, the employer, or the costs may be shared. Situations vary, but employer provided equipment, connections and support services enhance compatibility, dependability and security. (U.S. Department of Transportation, 1997) Regional Telecommuting Programs Much of the information on telecommuting has been focused on planning, establishing and evaluating programs within individual companies and organizations. There is little information available on the planning, establishment and evaluation of telecommuting at the regional or Statewide scale. Yet, it is State Departments of Transportation and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) that are tasked with improving mobility and reducing congestion. Furthermore, these organizations are responsible for demonstrating that their transportation plans and programs conform to the air quality plans in which telecommuting would be one element. In November 1997, The Urban Transportation Monitor conducted a survey conducted of telecommuting at the metropolitan scale. It found that 36 percent of the 56 responding MPOs indicated that they have been involved in promoting telecommuting programs in their regions. Of these, only 11 percent made adjustments in their travel forecasts to account for telecommuting. (Rathbone, 1997) In an effort to share information on the planning, establishment and evaluation of telecommuting programs at the Statewide and regional scale, DOT conducted a Workshop on Planning Regional Telecommuting Programs which was co-sponsored by two Transportation Research Board technical committees. The workshop was attended primarily by staff from MPOs, transit agencies and State DOTs. The workshop used material from the Congressionally-mandated report, "Successful Telecommuting Programs in the Public and Private Sector." Many of the participants Weiner and Stein 13 represented agencies that have begun to establish and evaluate regional telecommuting programs. (Turnbull, 1997) It was clear from this workshop that there was still a need for more information on telecommuting. Participants concluded that information was needed on case studies covering various aspects of establishing telecommuting programs, communicating with decision makers, employers and the public, management, funding sources, technology, and travel analysis and impact assessment. Research was called for to analyze the trends in telecommuting, their causes, and methods to forecast telecommuting and it impacts on travel and air quality. (Turnbull, 1997) Mandating Telecommuting by Federal Employees After years of modest progress in telecommuting by Federal employees, U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (VA) sponsored an amendment to the FY 2001 Department of Transportation Appropriations Act requiring each Federal agency to establish telecommuting programs. Section 359 of the Act (Public Law 106-346), required that each executive agency establish a policy under which eligible employees may participate in telecommuting to the maximum extent possible without diminished performance. The Act requires that the policies initially cover 25 percent of the Federal workforce, with an additional 25 percent added each year thereafter. The Conference Report on the Act stated that the reason for the program was to reduce traffic congestion. Further, that the program ensure that managerial, logistical, organizational, or other barriers to full implementation and successful functioning be removed. Each agency was to provide adequate administrative, human resources, technical, and logistical support to carry out the program. It defined telecommuting any arrangement in which an employee regularly performs officially assigned duties at home or other work sites at least one day per week. OPM conducted several surveys to measure the progress in implementing these requirements. OPM found that telecommuting by Federal employees increased from 45,300 in April 2001, to 74,500 in November 2001, to 90,000 in December 2002, to 102,900 in December 2003. This level of telecommuting represented 2.6 percent of the Federal workforce in April 2001, 4.2 percent in November 2001, 5.0 percent in December 2002 and 5.8 percent in December 2003. (U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 2004) Current Federal Role At the present time, the Federal role in telecommuting has several elements. First, the Clean Air Act established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). State and regional air quality st agencies develop plans to meet these standards. The Transportation Equity Act of the 21 Century (TEA-21) requires that transportation plans, programs, and projects conform to these air quality plans. In addition, TEA-21 funds under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program are made available to States and MPOs for transportation projects or programs that contribute to attainment or the maintenance of the NAAQS for ozone and carbon monoxide. Planning, technical and feasibility studies, training, coordination, marketing and promotion are eligible activities under CMAQ. Physical establishment or construction of telecommuting centers, computer and office equipment purchases and related activities are not eligible. These projects have to be included in the long range plan and shorter term transportation improvement program (TIP). Second, the Federal Government provides technical assistance and ongoing support to State, regional and local government agencies and private businesses interested in implementing telecommuting programs. There has been a growing interest in using telecommuting as a strategy for reducing vehicle travel demand and air pollution. Telecommuting has been seen as an attractive TDM strategy because it can contribute to congestion reduction, energy Weiner and Stein 14 conservation and independence, improvement of air quality, employment of people with limited mobility (disabled, retired, or low income persons, or single parents), and rural economic development. (Association for Commuter Transportation, 1998; Comsis et. al., 1993; and Shirazi, et. al. 1991) Third, with regard to telecommuting by Federal employees, agencies are moving to establish telecommuting policies, determine eligible employees, and offer the opportunity to them to telecommute to meet the requirements in the DOT FY 2001 Appropriations Act. Workshops are held for Federal managers on developing and implementing telecommuting programs. In addition, OPM and GSA jointly oversee the website www.telework.gov, which was built by OPM. The website posts policy guidance for setting up programs and suggestions related to management concerns about telecommuting. The foremost barrier to telecommuting acceptance has been managers' resistance based on fear of losing control over their employees. Other concerns include the cost of supplying home office equipment for workers who need access to e-mail and agency files, and the lack of information security in home offices. The website also posts union agreements and links to other related websites. More recently, in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, telecommuting is being integrated into the Federal Government's Continuity of Operations Program (COOP) and Federal agencies are including telecommuting in their respective COOP plans for emergency preparedness. (U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 2004) Conclusions Although telecommuting alone is not a solution to traffic congestion and air pollution, it can be important as one of several measures for addressing these problems. However, after many years of Federal telecommuting activity, telecommuting nationwide is still small. Even though, telecommuting options are relatively inexpensive compared to such options as expanding highway capacity or transit service, the organizational inertia has prevented telecommuting from becoming more widespread. The Federal government is continuing to promote and evaluate telecommuting as a travel demand measure and as an element in emergency preparedness plans. References Association for Commuter Transportation, 1998, Transportation Demand Management Tool Kit, Washington, DC. Clinton, William J., 1994, Expanding Family-Friendly Work Arrangements in the Executive Branch, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Branch Departments and Agencies, The White House, Washington, DC, July 11. Clinton, William J. and Al Gore, 1993. The Climate Change Action Plan, Washington, DC, October. Comsis, 1993, Implementing Effective Travel Demand Management Measures, Institute of Transportation Engineers, Washington, DC, June Joice, Wendell H, 2000, The Evolution Of Telework In The Federal Government, US General Services Administration, Washington, DC, February. ________, 1994a, Implementing Telecommuting: Manual for the Interagency Telecommuting Program, U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. General Services Administration, Washington, DC. Weiner and Stein 15 ________, 1994b, Interagency Telecommuting Program: A Trainer's Guide. U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. General Services Administration, Washington, DC. ________, 1993, The Federal Flexible Workplace Pilot Project Work-at-Home Component – Final Report, US Office of Personnel Management. Washington DC:, January. National Analysts, 1991, Qualitative Evaluation of EPA Region 9’s Work-At-Home Experience, Booz, Allen Hamilton. President's Council on Management Improvement, 1990, Guidelines for Pilot Flexible Workplace Arrangements, Washington, DC. President's Management Council Interagency Telecommuting Working Group, 1996, National Telecommuting Initiative Action Plan, Washington, DC, January. Rathbone, Daniel B., 1997, Editorial, Urban Transportation Monitor, Lawley Publications, Burke, VA, November 21. Schiff, F.W., 1993, Comments on the Origins of Teleplace, MATAC, Washington, DC, Unpublished presentation to the Mid-Atlantic Telecommuting Advisory Council. Shirazi, Elham, Kim Brant, Steve Gerritson, Ann Dempsey, and Lori Diggins, 2001, An Assessment of Telework in the New York Metropolitan Area, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, December. Shirazi, Elham, Jeffrey W. Fink, and Joanne Pratt, 1991, Telecommuting: Moving the Work to the Workers, Commuter Transportation Association Inc., Los Angeles, CA, September. Turnbull, Katherine F., ed., 1997, Workshop Proceedings: International Workshop on Planning Regional Commuting Programs, U.S. Department of Transportation, TRB TDM Committee, and TRB Telecommunication and Travel Behavior Committee Washington, DC, November. U.S. Department of Energy, 1994, Energy, Emissions, and Social Consequences of Telecommuting – Technical Report One, Washington, DC, June. U.S. Department of Transportation, 1997, Successful Telecommuting Programs in the Public and Private Sectors: A Report to Congress, Washington DC, August . ________, 1993, Transportation Implications of Telecommuting, Washington, DC, April . U.S. General Services Administration, 1995, Federal Interagency Telecommuting Centers: Interim Report, Washington, DC, March. U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 2004, The Status of Telework in the Federal Government - Report to the Congress, Washington, DC., May. Weiner, Edward, 1994, Telework: A Vital Link to Transportation, Energy and the Environment, Telework '94 Symposium: The Evolution of a New Culture, Toronto, Canada, November.
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