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Doan Announces Progress on GSA Telework Challenge

Remarks by
Lurita A. Doan
Administrator
U.S. General Services administration
Telework Exchange Spring Town Hall Meeting
Washington, DC
April 22, 2007

Thank you, Steve, for those kind words. Good afternoon, everyone. When I say I’m pleased to be here, I really mean it. Telework gives government a chance to prove that performance matters, not the physical presence of an employee in the workplace.

It was last September that Steve and the exchange invited me to discuss what was happening on Telework at GSA. I used the occasion to announce a tremendous challenge for our managers and workforce. As you may know, 4.2 percent of the eligible federal workforce teleworks one or more days each week. at GSA, our figure was higher, but it was still only 10 percent. I announced last September 12th that I wanted 20 percent by the end of calendar year 2008 and 50 percent of all eligible employees by 2010.

I’m very happy to report today that we’re going to make it! Since last September, we’ve gone from 10 percent of our folks teleworking at least one day a week to – are you ready? – 18 percent, an increase of about 800 teleworkers.  And by the end of the month, we will hit 20 percent … a full eight months ahead of schedule!

The really great thing about hitting the mark so fast is that we’ll be well on our way to 40 percent by the beginning of 2009 rather than the end. The eventual goal is 50 percent of all eligible GSA employees teleworking one or more days each week by the end of the decade.

I’m going to interrupt the stats here and tell you a story that illustrates one of the many benefits of telework.

We had a longtime employee in GSA Fleet – a one-time Vietnam chopper pilot named Bob Kund - who was getting ready to retire and move to South Carolina. This guy had thirty-plus years experience handling vehicle orders for the U.S. and Europe.

If he walked out the door, three decades of GSA fleet expertise would have walked out with him. Now, Bob had told his manager he was going to get a part-time job to stay busy down in Myrtle Beach. His manager said forget the part-time job, keep working for us!

Keep buying cars and trucks for our federal agency clients – just do it from South Carolina. Well, they struck a deal and Bob Kund still works for GSA.

In fact, Bob has been key in getting vehicles to those around the world who are fighting the war against terrorism.

One anecdote doesn’t make a great book, but I believe – and I think all of us here today believe – that we’re in the midst of a great chapter in American history.  All of us are committed to using telework to:

  • reduce energy consumption and the associated carbon footprint;
  • cut down on greenhouse gases;
  • ease traffic as well as the demand for office space;
  • and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

telework also helps us:

  • increase worker performance and productivity. (this includes improving accommodations for persons with disabilities);
  • save taxpayer dollars;
  • and it helps attract and – as you just heard - keep a world-class federal workforce.

Of course there’s the national security aspect. Federal agencies with robust telework programs in place boosts our readiness to sustain operations during emergencies.
I cannot stress this enough: telework is crucial when it comes to the continuity of operations. We cannot shut down the government in times of crisis. We cannot begin rehearsals when the sirens are screaming for real. Teleworking now lets us iron out the kinks for later. It enables us to be proactive instead of reactive, and to hopefully continue smoothly during the next crisis. 

Stepping back, I think there’s a lot of momentum driving this movement. Cindy (Auten from the Telework Exchange) says we’ve hit a perfect storm of sky-high gas prices, heightened concern about the environment, and the need to recruit younger workers. She’s right. Plus, we have champions like Senator Landrieu and Senator Stevens, Congressmen Wolf, Davis, and Sarbanes, all pushing telework bills on the hill.

With all this in play, GSA will be demonstrating to the entire government that telework is a winner, both at our telework centers and within the agency.

Inside GSA, our managers are responding. We’ve just announced a new, better-structured telework policy. A fund has been established to absorb the costs for employees to use our alternative worksites.

We’re scheduled to deploy 5,000 new laptops by the end of the fiscal year.

We’ve met with prominent private sector companies to learn how they implemented telework.

And, as I noted, we’ve boosted our telework numbers at many of our 11 regional offices throughout the country.

The leader is New England, where 76 percent of the employees have telework agreements. During last year’s winter of brutal storms, these employees remained safe, secure and productive.

What’s really interesting is a study just released by RIM and Telework Exchange — and they’ll probably be discussing this today --- which says that agencies like GSA and DOD and HHS who are making telework a part of the decision process for IT spending represents a sea change and is one of the prerequisites for the institutionalization of telework.

Another really interesting recommendation from the study is that agencies track the ROI – return on investment for any spending on telework. I really like this idea because it echoes the theme of return on investment in all of our government spending decisions and the President’s Management  Agenda and our commitment to provide value for the American taxpayer.

Lastly, I’d like to also point you to an updated website developed by OPM and GSA. www.telework.gov features user-friendly improvements designed to make telework information more accessible and understandable. New features include quick links to key pages and online training. Easy access to related policies and a direct search database are also new. And users can now type in telework questions that can be routed to experts who will respond via email.

In an era marked by tight budgets, high fuel costs and rising concern about the environment, telework’s a real no-brainer.

Telework works.

Thank you very much.