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Administrator Doan Issues GSA Telework Challenge

Remarks by
Lurita A. Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services Administration
2007 Telework Exchange Town Hall Meeting
Washington, DC
September 12, 2007

 

Thank you, Steve. Good morning, everyone; thanks for coming, and thank you to the Telework Exchange for sponsoring this town hall meeting.

Steve’s absolutely right. As an entrepreneur and as GSA Administrator, I’ve repeatedly found that employees rise to the occasion when presented with a worthy challenge, the freedom to innovate, and solid backing from company or agency leaders. At GSA, we proved this with our MAS Express Program -- or what I like to call the 30-day challenge.  When I came to GSA, I challenged the Federal Acquisition Service to cut the time it takes for our vendors to get on a GSA Schedule Contract. Some outside our agency said it couldn’t be done. Many alleged experts were doubtful. But we did it. We went from over 150 days to 30 days. And you can imagine my delight on Monday when GSA was able to report that we are actually beating the target and awarding schedule contracts in 20 days!

As my staff will tell you, I’m not one to sit back and be satisfied with today’s accomplishments.  So this morning, I am announcing a challenge to all of GSA -- a challenge to lead the federal government in telework.  And as we all know, true leaders lead by example.   In fact, Kevin Messner, who heads GSA’s Office of Congressional Affairs and GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy, actually became the poster boy in the May Telework Exchange issue—when he was photographed as he teleworked from a Herndon, Virginia center.

So here’s the bottom line:  50 percent by 2010.  That’s right, I want 50 percent of GSA staff who can, teleworking by the end of the decade. 

It’s an ambitious goal, but like all ambitious goals, this is one that I know is achievable.  All of us know the benefits are obvious and substantial. Outside this room, though, doubt remains. So let’s look at what seems to concern the naysayers:

  • Some worry that telework will result in reduced quality and quantity of work.  Research and my own experience have consistently shown the opposite. teleworkers perform at least equal or better than office-bound workers.
  • Some fret that teleworkers won't be as available or accessible off-site as they are at the office.  Again, research shows that teleworkers are as available and even more available than workers in the office.

Think about it.  How many times have you called the person in the office two doors down rather than walking over and speaking in person?  How many times have you emailed the person in the cubicle next to you?  So why this worry?

  • Some managers are concerned about data controls and information security.  Studies (including a GSA commissioned study) have shown that adequate technology exists and is readily available to enable controlled information security in a telework environment.

It seems that those who argue the loudest against telework have never tried it.  Studies (including a telework exchange and American Management Association study), have shown that managers are more receptive when they telework themselves. And so we’re strongly encouraging managers to try one of 14 GSA telework centers in the Washington metro region. So far 40 have signed up.

What they will find is what we already know, that telework:

  • Reduces energy use;
  • Cuts down on greenhouse gases;
  • Eases traffic;
  • Reduces our dependence on foreign oil;
  • Increases worker productivity;
  • And saves taxpayer dollars.

It also happens to be a great way to attract and keep a world-class federal workforce. Think about it -- would you rather be sitting in beltway traffic or done with work and spending time with your family, enjoying your hobby, or…I’m making a small pitch here…volunteering in your community?

And then there’s the national security aspect. There’s been widespread interest in incorporating telework into our continuity of operations plans. When you think about how the government will need to operate during a national disaster or following an act of terrorism, having a large pool of trained and equipped staff who can work from home or a remote location gives us a lot of flexibility.  And we can have a training session every week. 

Federal agencies that have a robust telework program in place as part of normal operations are better prepared to have employees transition to the alternative work arrangement in an emergency.  The result will be a better trained and properly equipped workforce that is allowed to participate in telework to the maximum extent possible.

So there you have a pretty good list of reasons to get behind telework. And yet, after more than 15 years of continuing efforts to promote the federal program, participation levels are still not as high as we believe they can and should be.

There are some strong champions on Capitol Hill and we look forward to working with folks like Senators Landrieu and Stevens, Congressmen Wolf and Sarbanes, as well as other members of Congress on appropriate telework legislation. 

GSA has also established those 14 telework centers I mentioned to provide alternative workplaces for employees who cannot or prefer not to work at home.  The centers are in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.  In fact, Derrell Dobbferfuhl, who runs some of the centers in Northern Virginia, is in the audience—Derrell can you stand up?

To find out more please visit our website:
http://www.gsa.gov/telework

To sum it up, then, our goal of nurturing and growing federal telework requires pro-active leadership, strong policy mandates, clear guidelines, and increased program support and integration of telework into overall agency planning.

It also requires us to lead by example. That’s why I’m announcing the 50 percent challenge for GSA today. Currently, 4.2 percent of the eligible federal workforce teleworks one or more days each week. At GSA, our current figure is a little higher, but it’s still only 10 percent. I want that figure to be 20 percent by the end of 2008. I want it to be 40 percent by the end of 2009. And by 2010, I want 50 percent of all eligible GSA employees to telework one or more days each week. That’s 20 percent by the end of next year, 40 percent by the end of 2009, and 50 percent by 2010. It won’t be easy. But the leaders of GSA have already proven they are capable of extraordinary achievements, no matter the odds.

Some have already stepped up. Soon, employment notices for each new eligible job that opens at GSA will clearly state telework as an option. 

For this important change, I thank the members of his environmental task force, headed by Deputy Administrator David Bibb, who first floated the idea of a telework challenge as part of their efforts to “green” GSA. 

I’ve done the easy part…throwing down the challenge.  But I have great confidence in the excellent team we have at GSA to develop an aggressive implementation plan to meet this goal.

Over the next three months, we will set our strategy and put the people and polices in place to make GSA the leader in federal telework and a model for our sister agencies. 

Can I count on your support? We need you to help spread the word about the GSA telework challenge -- as often and as loudly as possible

Please email any comments to me at lurita.doan@gsa.gov or to Stan Kaczmarczyk, who is the Deputy Associate Administrator of the GSA Office of Governmentwide policy and sponsor our telework effort.

Another GSA employee, Billy Michael, within OGP, has the lead on implementing policies for telework throughout the federal government.

And of course, Marge Higgins in our Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer is responsible for implementing telework policies internally at GSA.  I hope you can speak with them at some time during this conference and have them share their experiences on telework.

My appreciation again to the telework exchange for the work you do and the support I hope you’ll give to our continuing efforts at GSA.

Thank you very much.