Federal telework use is growing at a rapid pace, posting more than 400 percent growth from 2005 to 2009. The federal government also boasts a higher percentage of teleworkers than any other sector, according to a new report by the Telework Research Network.
The report -- "State of Telework in the U.S." -- found that 3.2 percent of the federal workforce teleworked in 2009, up from just 0.7 percent in 2005. That's slightly higher than any other sector, such as the private for-profit (2.4 percent), non-profit (2.7 percent), local government (1.1 percent) and state government (2.2 percent), the report found.
The report noted, however, that the government's own accounting shows that 61 percent of the 2 million federal employees are considered eligible to telework, but only 100,000, or 5.2 percent, of those eligible did so in 2009.
"Though the federal workforce participation rate is higher than the rate of all other classes of workers, it's surprisingly low considering that since 2000 a federal mandate has required that every U.S. government employee work from home to the maximum extent possible," the report stated.
Still, while the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act, which seeks to dramatically increase eligibility to telework among federal workers, has no real teeth in terms of sanctions or non-compliance, it is expected to make some real strides in federal telework in the years ahead, TRN noted in the report.
Meanwhile, regular teleworking overall grew 61 percent between 2005 and 2009, according to the report. Based on current trends, with no growth acceleration, regular telecommuters overall will total 4.9 million by 2016, a 69 percent increase from the current level.
Still, many U.S. organizations continue to struggle with the culture shift that's required to manage a remote workforce, as most consider management fear and mistrust to be the biggest barrier to telework adoption. "While looming labor shortages, increased pressure from value chain partners and others to engage in sustainable practices, rising fuel prices, budget pressures and a variety of other factors will continue to make telework attractive, the cultural barriers will not be quickly overcome," the report stated.