However, a new Avaya white paper on telework in the federal space says that less than a quarter of those eligible actually did work remotely, usually for two or fewer days per week on average.
“It is clear that implementation barriers remain,” writes Rob Chen, senior director of software engineering and innovation for Avaya’s government solutions business. “One of the most significant may be the cultural shift required.”
Among those cultural shifts, Chen writes telework takes away the opportunity for employees to visit each others’ desks and interact around the water cooler.
Telework also prevents workers from sitting “elbow to elbow” while working on a project, Chen writes.
Technological barriers exist in adopting telework ranging from privacy and security of data, building infrastructures for hardware and networks and implementing virtual collaboration tools to replicate the physical office.
The concept of a three-dimensional, virtual collaboration space has long been a novelty in the world of information technology,” Chen writes. “But today the idea has become mainstream, backed by the appropriate infrastructure and bandwidth.
“As a result, agencies can create a virtual online office, complete with cubicles, meeting rooms and a familiar look and feel.”
Teleworkers only require an Internet browser and Internet connectivity to enter the virtual office and Chen writes the virtual environments outline roles and privileges for security.
Managers would walk through the halls and stop at cubicles to check in with employees, similar to the real office, Chen writes.
To help agencies implement virtual collaboration, Avaya has developed its AvayaLive Engage system to address the cultural, technological and collaboration barriers affecting telework implementation.
According to Chen, teleworkers make presentations and share documents while sitting in their virtual cubes, share desktops with managers and walk down a virtual hall to connect with a colleague.
“Up to 50 teleworkers can simultaneously settle into their own cubicle in the same virtual workspace,” Chen writes. “Cubicles and meeting rooms have doors that can be opened to invite guests in — or closed for privacy. Desks have phones with the teleworker’s phone number.”
The Office of Personnel Management estimates agencies lost nearly $71 million in productivity during the 2009-10 winter in the Washington region, which featured three large snowstorms and two within a week of each other in February.
According to Chen, that led to OPM realizing potential benefits of telework including integration into continuity of operations planning.
Some of the goals of telework include reducing traffic congestion and helping the environment, Chen writes.