Several years ago, I introduced legislation to officially promote teleworking in Virginia. No legislative framework existed for taking advantage of teleworking to encourage employees to work at home while increasing productivity. Employers were nervous about teleworking’s potential for encouraging employees to stay home and reduce their productive work time.
I am pleased to say that, once Governor Kaine made it clear that he thought that teleworking was valuable in reducing traffic and improving output, many followed suit in Virginia. And his director of personnel made it clear to Virginia’s workforce that it was a legitimate method to improve productivity while decreasing costs.
Since then, teleworking has increased in state and local government, and thanks to leaders like Congressmen Connolly and Wolf, teleworking has become widespread in the Federal workforce. The Federal Office of Personnel Management is actively promoting teleworking through workshops, town hall meetings and designation of telework leaders within agencies. And local governments have created telework coordinators who track and encourage telework in their agencies
Unfortunately, as I learned last week at the monthly meeting of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Board of Directors, teleworking’s potential has slowed. During the meeting, members of the Board talked about the need for more transportation facilities, more housing for people of limited means and more dollars for reducing pollution, but not a word about promoting teleworking as a means of reducing the strain on those other systems. After the meeting, however, I was pleased to be contacted by COG staff, asking to discuss teleworking. And a couple Board members expressed agreement with my premise: Telework expansion can reduce infrastructure costs and operating costs. I am looking forward to further discussion – and more action on the telework front. I am convinced that expanding telework opportunities will reduce costs and improve services.
In Fairfax County, telework has been a success, largely because under the leadership of Congressman Connolly, the County pushed for a leader within the county government who was responsible for ensuring the establishment of clear rules and procedures that set a framework for making teleworking possible for the County workforce.
Similar results have been produced elsewhere, and more importantly, the Federal Government has become a major telework promoter by offering on the-job-training for managers and by encouraging employees to take advantage of the opportunities telework offers to agencies and employees – and families.
Although considerable progress has been made, much remains to be done. Too many workforce managers see teleworking as a challenge, not an aid. It is time to use the success of the numerous teleworking employees to promote a more widespread use of a system that can reduce costs and improve morale.
Legislative bodies may need to improve the incentives and leadership they can provide to reduce costs and encourage managers to see the value in a program that will pay dividends in reduced personnel costs, reduction in transportation and housing costs.
Monday I attended the meeting of the House Appropriations Committee in Richmond. The Committee meets monthly during the summer and fall preparatory to the 2013 session of the House and Senate. Monday’s meeting focused on the national and state economics indicators.
According the McDonnell Administration, “current national indicators suggest the modest economic expansion is slowing….and the labor market remains sluggish.” While payroll employment rose by 96,000 in August, the June and July numbers were revised downward. In Northern Virginia employment increased by 2.4% above July last year although the Commonwealth as whole grew by only 1.8% from July of last year. Clearly, there are limitations on the Commonwealth’s capacity to affect these numbers, but I am hopeful that next year’s budget will focus on job creation and infrastructure improvement through more investment in transportation and education.
Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]