Feds Aren't Video Conferencing Enough

Lack of video conference equipment is to blame, study finds.

Most feds are still using telephone and email instead of newer technologies such as video conferencing to communicate with their colleagues outside of the office, in large part because most agencies aren’t making video conferencing tools widely available, according to a new report.

The report, released Monday by Telework Exchange and Blue Jeans Network, found that 89 percent of federal employees use their telephone and 95 percent use email at least monthly to communicate with their colleagues outside of their office. 

While a 2011 executive order by the Obama administration encouraged more efficient spending, including alternatives to government travel, most feds are still more likely to have in-person meetings requiring travel than they are to video-conference, the study found. For example, 43 percent of feds said they travel for meetings at least once per month, versus 36 percent who said they use video conferencing on a monthly basis to communicate with colleagues outside of the office.

That 2011 executive order has led to some progress on video conferencing, however, with 51 percent of feds saying they have seen at least some improvement in the use of the technology, while 22 percent said their agencies plans to expand video conferencing as a result of the executive order, Telework Exchange found.

As federal agencies look to cut costs, video conferencing may provide an effective alternative to in-person travel, as more widespread use of the technology could reduce feds’ travel budgets by $4.95 billion, Telework Exchange found. Video conferencing also could lead to improved collaboration, reduced carbon footprint, improved work-life balance, improved engagement and improved productivity, the report stated.

Using video conferencing also could lead to even more savings as a result of productivity gains, the report said. For example, federal employees surveyed said they believe they could save 3.5 hours per week by using video conferencing, which would lead to an estimated $8 billion in productivity savings costs.

Still, despite the benefits of video conferencing, 76 percent of feds surveyed said they don’t believe their agency uses the technology to its fullest extent. 

The report found feds want to use more video conferencing technologies -- nearly three times more often than they currently do. Seventy percent of federal employees surveyed said they are likely to use video conferencing if it became available, and 84 percent believe video conferencing use will increase in the next five years.

Telework Exchange recommended that agencies begin by using available resources for video conferencing and making employees aware of those tools. 

“We are riding the wave of mobility and must arm federal workers with the right tools to get the job done in the best way possible,” said Cindy Auten, general manager of Telework Exchange. “Collaboration tools, like video conferencing, allow coworkers to come together visually but without lengthy travel or large amounts of time away from one’s work station.  It best enables cooperation and teamwork in these mobile times.”