Federal agencies need not reinvent the wheel when it comes to measuring the return on investment of their telework programs; they can simply look to the models of 10 leading agencies that have documented their successes in a new toolkit.
The Office of Personnel Management and Mobile Work Exchange on Tuesday – when federal offices were closed due to a snowstorm – released a new calculator and best practices guide designed to help managers determine the cost savings and benefits telework is providing across their agency, in areas such as real estate, business continuity and productivity.
“This has been a long time coming; we’ve taken a lot of in-depth interviews from agencies and working groups to build a real model agencies can use,” said Cindy Auten, general manager of Mobile Work Exchange, on Tuesday. “If an agency can avoid reinventing the wheel because of the toolkit, that’s a great success. Everything we do is about creating efficiency, and that’s a good use of taxpayer dollars.”
Managers can begin by looking to the guide for insight on how to lay a foundation for measuring telework return on investment. That includes effectively defining the roles of teleworkers, remote workers and mobile workers, as well as defining the frequency and specific goals of the telework program – all areas for which the guide provides common definitions used by other federal agencies.
Managers then must determine the “value factors” that have the potential to benefit the agency and balance those out with the cost factors of implementing a telework program. Common value factors can include commuting costs, transit subsidies, environmental impact, continuity of operations, productivity, recruitment/retention, real estate and utilities, according to the guide.
The guide also offers specific formulas already in place at some federal agencies for helping measure telework’s ROI in many of those areas. For calculating COOP savings on snow days, for example, agencies can look to the Patent of Trademark’s model, which calculates the difference in productivity rates and attendance records between teleworkers and non-teleworkers.
On real estate, GSA is currently implementing a Project Planner tool to assist agencies in measuring ROI by using the consolidation of space, how an agency will utilize its current space, the number of teleworkers and how often they telework, along with other variables. Air Force headquarters also outlines a number of formulas in the guide that can be used to determine the amount of real estate savings from telework.
Agencies also have access to a variety of calculators and tools to help measure ROI, from the General Services Administration’s Carbon Footprint Tool, Green Procurement Tool, and Cost Per Person Model, to OPM’s fee-for-service group’s Telework Satisfaction Survey to Mobile Work Exchange’s new ROI Calculator.
“Many managers know there is ROI from telework but many don’t know where to start,” Auten said. “The calculator coupled with this guide will help them to see where they can start, including the actual equations to help them understand an ROI model.”
Plans for the toolkit started in late 2012, before the Government Accountability Office initiated a review of how agencies are tracking telework progress. The GAO report, released in July, criticized OPM for insufficiently assessing the use of telework across government in its 2012 telework status report to Congress. OPM, in turn, said agencies did not deliver telework data because of management resistance and a lack of resources, according to the report.
Auten said Tuesday that the new toolkit should help agencies not only estimate the returns telework is providing at the agency level but should also improve their reporting to OPM for future annual telework status reports.
“Over the years, we have seen agencies struggle with identifying the right ROI model and improve their reporting to show changes year over year,” Auten said. “The toolkit coupled with programs agencies are doing internally, such as developing their own automated tracking systems that are tied to time and attendance data, should provide more accurate numbers. This is an extra step, and it’s required by the Telework Enhancement Act.”
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