Joseph Hungate is CIO for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Dec 31 2009

A Guide to Successfully Adapting Telecommuting in Your Agency

Measurement makes telework work at the Treasury agency.

At the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), approximately 88 percent of employees telecommute in some capacity. The adoption of telecommuting has been a key contributor to both the high level of employee performance and a lower cost of operation for the Treasury Department agency. To track that type of information requires metrics.

First, an agency must gather the appropriate information, then it must look at how this data correlates to the goals of its telework program, and finally it must modify its program accordingly.

What to Measure

When addressing the issue of performance metrics and telework, it is important to note the significance of “soft” benefits: employee satisfaction/morale, work-life balance, recruitment strategy, cost avoidance (rather than cost savings) and business resumption.

Although cost-benefit analyses generally do not capture these items, they contribute to the future success of the organization — and any agency that wants to use or expand telework must consider them. TIGTA analyses consistently capture such information along with the traditional numbers and figures.

Looking at the Data

The agency regularly surveys its employees and managers about areas such as job performance, productivity, timeliness and quality of work, and job satisfaction.

In 2006, TIGTA’s survey of its Office of Audit employees and managers indicated that 41 percent of the managers surveyed saw an increase in employee productivity, 28 percent reported an increase in the quality of work, and 12 percent witnessed an increase in communication among employees through telework.

These results suggest that TIGTA has transitioned to a telecommuting culture while maintaining and even improving employees’ performance, work quality and communication. The program does not require extensive internal marketing and serves as a low-cost and significant benefit in recruiting new applicants.

But the transition has also presented new challenges. Most concerns arise from challenges in management oversight — a rigorous undertaking for the IT support staff — and tackling issues related to employee isolation.

Making Adjustments

For more tips on creating a secure and smart telework program, look here.

To address these issues, management has placed greater emphasis on promoting proactive communication practices, setting clear goals with attainable deadlines, and encouraging peer interaction and collaboration on long-term projects through meetings, presentations and digital newsletters.

Although there are challenges to an evolving virtual workplace, TIGTA is dedicated to continuing with this initiative. Currently, the organization is transforming multiple offices to a “hoteling” system that will let employees reserve office space in a TIGTA facility when necessary.

Constructive feedback has allowed TIGTA to fine-tune its new employee training practices, upgrade data security capabilities and improve communication between managers and employees.

The goal is to remain an exemplar performance-accountable organization, embracing the convenience and cost savings of telecommuting.


<p>Photo: Ron Aira</p>