Feds are more mobile, but dissatisfied with agencies' wireless support

Survey says latest technology could boost employees' productivity outside the office.

An overwhelming majority of federal employees -- 82 percent -- spend some time each month teleworking, and the latest technology could help increase their productivity, according to a new study from a nonprofit group.

Comment on this article in The Forum."Most people are mobile and trying to make better use of their time," said Cindy Auten, general manager of the Telework Exchange, which produced the report. Technology such as BlackBerrys and iPhones allow employees to send and receive e-mail, or even work on documents when they're out of the office or commuting. Survey respondents with those devices reported an average savings of 54 minutes per day.

But only 16 percent of the survey's 446 respondents said their agency does the best it can to provide employees who telework with the necessary remote access tools. The survey asked federal employees to assign a letter grade to their agency's support efforts, and 27 percent of respondents gave their workplaces an F. Sixteen percent of those surveyed awarded their agencies an A, while 23 percent doled out Bs; 19 percent gave out Cs and 15 percent said their agency earned a D.

For those employees using the latest technology to telework and telecommute, Auten said agencies should set strong performance measures for employees to prevent misuse, and also choose devices based on need rather than on trends.

"What we've heard from agencies is there's not this one-size-fits-all telework package that everyone should buy and everyone should be mobile. Not everyone may need a collaboration tool, but employees who work more in teams or need to share documents, that would be one of the tools that's very good in a mobile environment," she said.

The September 2008 survey had a margin of error of 4.59 percent. Of those surveyed, 42 percent telework at least part time, while 72 percent spend more than an hour each day commuting. Of those federal respondents who are based in an office, 20 percent spend part of at least 12 business days each month working outside the office.