Next week, federal agencies must submit telework policies as federal officials begin their efforts to boost the number of government employees who telecommute. This is the first step towards easing traffic congestion, preparing for a potential pandemic such as swine flu and making the government a more attractive potential employer.
This is a positive move, given that only approximately 95,000 federal employees out of more than 1.9 million teleworked at least one day a week last year, according to the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) last Report on the Status of Telework in Federal Government.
In our current economic climate, telework makes sense because it reduces travel costs and enables agencies to save money on office space by allowing employees to share space. In fact, one federal agency that added videoconferencing as a telework tool saved thousands on travel costs.
Videoconferencing is a major enabler of telework and takes it to the “next level.” With so much government focus on going green, recruiting and retaining high-performing employees, improving the quality of life for employees, reducing reliance on foreign oil, and responding to the closing and moving of government offices and bases, telework is a huge initiative across government agencies, and video makes it a realistic solution that effectively deals with these issues. Here are some of the ways that videoconferencing takes telework to the next level:
- It enables people at different locations to communicate as if they were in the same room.Videoconferencing reduces many barriers to telework as colleagues, managers and support teams can continue to interact with one another in real-time and face-to-face, maintaining the level of collaboration they have when they are in the office.Workers can share information visually and immediately, and even with base or office changes, still work as a team.
- With concerns over the retiring public sector workforce, offices and agencies can offer a unique way to incentivize new employees with the ability to telework, and have access to experts around the world, maintaining the level of skill needed to complete their mission effectively and efficiently.
- It accelerates decision-making across the globe and in emergency situations. A U.S. government defense agency uses videoconferencing to connect and communicate with the warfighter in the field, as well as carry out its mission on a global basis. Access to communications on secret or highly secure government networks, allows them to discuss top secret information, and greater awareness of nonverbal cues by the speaker and listener during a videoconference is particularly helpful when quick decisions are necessary.
- Productivity is increased by eliminating the need to travel to different locations to attend meetings, and allowing participants to access information from their own computers and share it with others during the meeting.
These are just some of the ways that videoconferencing is used in the United States and across the globe to keep agencies and others communicating effectively.
Is your agency currently realizing any of these benefits through telecommuting? Let us know.