CDW survey reveals increase in federal telework

More federal employees are participating in telework programs this year. Although security issues remain a concern, telecommuting offers substantial benefits to both the government and its workers, according to a new study.

Computer hardware and software seller CDW Government Inc. of Vernon Hills, Ill., said in a report released today that more federal workers are working from home this year than last year?with nearly one-half of all teleworkers starting over the past year.

In particular, the report, which surveyed more than 500 federal workers?including 235 federal IT professionals?said telework in the government has increased from 19 percent to 41 this year, with 43 percent having started in the past year. Online and telephone surveys and in-person interviews with federal employees and federal IT professions were done in February.

Also, 32 percent of the respondents said their agency started a telework program in the past year, with 45 percent saying their agency has not started a program and 23 percent were not sure.

A primary concern for telework, though, is security, as 53 percent of the federal IT professionals said security is the biggest challenge facing telecommuting.

A distinct majority of the IT professionals?55 percent?said their agency's telework standards are hampered under the requirements of the Federal Information Security Management Act, a slight decrease from last year.

Agencies with telework programs, however, generally tackle security concerns with anti-virus software and network firewalls, along with encryption and network monitoring.

Max Peterson, vice president of federal sales of CDW-G, said that the company's previous reports on telework along with an initiative called the Telework Exchange were two of the catalysts that prompted more agencies to hop on the telework bandwagon. The Telework Exchange is an online community focused on eliminating telework hurdles.

CDW-G's first federal telework report, issued in January 2005, showed that federal agencies were not complying with the telework law because they were unaware of its implementation date or because they lacked the standard telework technology.

Financial penalties for noncompliance were another impetus that pushed more agencies to act, Peterson said. With sufficient progress in meeting the government's goal, no agency has yet received a penalty, Peterson added.

The federal telework law of 2000 mandates that agencies offer all eligible employees the opportunity to telecommute. The law was passed in an effort to reduce office overcrowding and real estate costs, curb absenteeism, reduce gasoline consumption, relieve traffic congestion in the Washington metropolitan area and provide jobs to the disabled.

Rob Thormeyer is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News. Roseanne Gerin is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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