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Submitted By: Adriane Thormahlen
Chair, OIRM Flexiplace
Date: April 12, 2001
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Executive Summary
III. General Findings
IV. Management Issues
V. IT Technical Support Issues
VI. Hoteling Issues
VII. Cost Benefit Analysis
VIII. General Recommendations
In today's highly competitive labor market, flexiplace has emerged as an effective business tool to attract and retain a skilled workforce. Flexiplace, also known as "telecommuting" and "telework" (terms used interchangeably throughout this report), refers to working outside of the traditional office one or more days per week. High-tech professionals in particular are increasingly enticed by telecommuting as a way to balance busy work and personal lives. A Washington Post survey of 3,500 Information Technology (IT) workers in the Baltimore and D.C. areas revealed that the most preferred employment benefit was telecommuting. Recognizing the many benefits this work arrangement offers to organizations, employees and the community, Congress passed legislation in October, 2000 requiring executive agencies to permit all eligible Federal employees to telecommute, to be phased in over a four-year period.
The Winter 2000 edition of IRS' Leader's Digest described the growing number of employees servicewide who successfully work apart from their manager and work group. Flexiplace is a work option, however, that is underutilized in Information Systems (renamed Information Technology Services but referred to as IS for this report only) despite the fact that many IS work activities are conducive to telecommuting. To demonstrate the benefits of flexible work arrangements for both the organization and its employees, IS' Office of Information Resources Management (OIRM) conducted a Flexiplace/Hoteling Pilot from June to October, 2000. Hoteling is an alternative work option often combined with flexiplace since telecommuters spend a significant percentage of time away from the conventional office. For the pilot, telecommuters worked at home and reserved an available workstation only on those days they were at the New Carrollton, MD facility.
Key Pilot Findings
The pilot, consisting of 20 OIRM managers and employees, was successful in demonstrating that flexible work options can be a win-win situation for the IS organization and employees. Below are the findings based on data collected from participants, managers and coworkers:
(1) Recruitment/Retention Strategy. The pilot data revealed that more than half the participants were less likely to look for another job due to the ability to telecommute on a regular basis. For each employee retained, the organization saves the expense of replacing that employee.
The nature of the pilot prevented research into the impact of flexiplace as a recruitment factor in attracting new IS employees. Other studies, however, have shown that a substantial number of job candidates would choose the employer offering flexiplace over those who do not, with other factors being equal. Flexiplace can serve as a method for the Federal Government to level the playing field with private industry due to salary constraints.
(2) Space Utilization. The pilot found that expansion of the Flexiplace/Hoteling Program to other parts of IS would allow the organization to reallocate a minimum of 23% of the workstations for other purposes, such as accommodating additional employees or contractors. The ability to house the same number of individuals in a smaller amount of space results in significant real estate savings and can avoid the need to lease costly space in other buildings. The potential annual cost avoidance, based on a participation rate of 100 flexiplace/hoteling participants, is estimated to be $414,000 (the larger the number of participants, the greater the savings).
(3) Employee Satisfaction. Pilot participants reported a substantial increase in satisfaction levels and quality of work life as a result of flexiplace:
Equally important, 100% of the managers of the participants were satisfied or very satisfied with flexiplace as an alternative work arrangement and understood the value of flexiplace as a business tool to attract and retain skilled employees.
(4) Customer Satisfaction. The level of customer satisfaction experienced by an organization is directly related to several factors, including how well the quality of a product or service meets customer needs. All participants and managers reported that the quality of work delivered to customers either improved or remained neutral. Participants perceived their customers and coworkers to be supportive of flexiplace and indicated they provide better customer service while participating in the flexiplace program. The satisfaction an employee experiences relative to his/her job environment directly impacts customer satisfaction as well. Industry experience shows that satisfied employees generally results in satisfied customers.
(5) Business Results. The type of work performed by participants was mostly program management in nature and did not lend itself to typical quantitative performance measures. As many as 82% of the participants reported an increase in their productivity while telecommuting. They indicated they completed more work, on time, and with no decrease in quality. The participants' managers agreed or reported no change. Most participants experienced fewer distractions and interruptions, were more focused, and were better able to plan, organize, and accomplish their workload at home compared with the main office. All of these factors contribute to the ability to produce higher quality and more timely work products.
Management Issues. Managers reported that no significant adjustment was necessary to manage workers remotely. Participants highly valued the opportunity to telecommute and most reported that their performance was greatly enhanced by the ability to work at home compared with the office. Further, communications with their managers substantially improved for a large number of telecommuters. Data also did not reveal any negative impact on team dynamics, measured by the ability to conduct face-to-face meetings, absence of co-worker issues, impact on professional interaction with colleagues, and the participants' sense of belonging to the organization.
For flexible work arrangements to be successful, management based on results is crucial. This management approach needs to be adopted for all employees regardless of whether workers are remote or on-site. An effective communications discipline helps to establish productive relationships and build trust between managers and telecommuters. It is also important for managers to understand that they cannot demand greater accountability from telecommuters than they do from on-site employees.
IT/Technical Support. Connectivity, both at home and in a hoteling operation, is essential to satisfying the remote worker's ongoing needs in the technology arena. Pilot participants initially experienced difficulties accessing the IRS network both from home and from the hoteling workstation. Some issues were part of the normal learning curve for both the organization and employees in transitioning to a mobile work environment. Others were systemic issues that must be resolved to adequately accommodate remote workers. For remote work to succeed on a larger scale, IS must ensure the following exists: a sufficient inventory of laptops; expertise to solve laptop/equipment problems; a clearly defined process for expeditious support of remote workers; and user-friendly remote access to all IRS systems, not only email.
The pilot demonstrated that having the right technology to perform one's job is the key difference in a flexiplace program that works and one that does not. It is important to design cost-effective solutions that meet the needs of the organization and the end-users. Technology representatives must understand what is currently used, evaluate the requirements of telecommuters, and properly match those requirements with available options.
Hoteling. Hoteling arrangements offer a valuable opportunity to significantly reduce real estate costs by optimizing the use of corporate space. Pilot data confirmed that the following key features are needed to realize the maximum benefits of hoteling and enhance satisfaction of participants and managers with the arrangements: an easy-to-use and accessible space reservation system; a method to track people, their location and contact information; an automated means of switching phone extensions; an effective means to measure use of office space; and the ability for participants to easily manage access to files and storage, e.g., mobile file units, centralized cabinets, or document management software.
Since the sharing of office space can represent a significant change in work patterns for employees, the pilot demonstrated that hoteling policies and practices must consider the needs and expectations of users to the maximum extent possible. It is also important that the criteria for participation in the hoteling program be well-defined and administered in an equitable manner.
Cost Benefit Analysis
The cost/benefit analysis identified the quantifiable costs and benefits associated with the pilot, both recurring and non-recurring. The analysis then extended the overall costs and benefits into a three-year implementation plan for the Flexiplace/Hoteling Program. The implementation plan assumes the acquisition of laptops as part of the three-year computer replacement cycle and participation of 100 employees in flexiplace/hoteling arrangements. Based on these assumptions, the table below illustrates the total projected hard costs and benefits over a three-year period, resulting in a potential net savings of $805,838 for the organization:
Telecommunications - $675,722
Real Estate Avoidance - $1,242,000
Equipment** - 207,900
Recruitment Avoidance - 496,000
Space Management - 49,400
Total - $933,022
Total - $805,838 over 3 yrs
*Not included are the intangible benefits of employee satisfaction and productivity enhancements.
**This figure represents the difference between a desktop and laptop computer system.
Based on the pilot's key findings and lessons learned, flexiplace and hoteling arrangements offer tremendous potential to IS as an effective recruitment and retention strategy for skilled professionals, a viable means to increase employee satisfaction, and a business strategy to maximize space utilization. The following major recommendations are presented in order to implement flexible work arrangements on a larger scale throughout the IS organization:
In conclusion, advances in information technology and telecommunications now enable work to be performed regardless of location. The concept of a single place to work is, for the majority of office workers in the Information Age, outdated. It is costly and no longer matches the needs and desires of today's workforce. When a telework program is well planned, managed and supported, it is a powerful win-win solution for employers and employees, as well as the community at large.
In September 1999, the Director, Office of Information Resources Management (OIRM), Information Systems (IS), endorsed a proposal for a Flexiplace/Hoteling Pilot within OIRM at IRS Headquarters. The objectives of the pilot were (1) to identify and resolve issues that impact participation in flexible work arrangements; (2) to promote flexiplace and hoteling as viable work options in IS; and (3) provide a model that could be replicated in other IS areas.
Flexiplace, also known as "telecommuting" and "telework", refers to working in an environment outside of the traditional office one or more days per week. Research sponsored by the International Telework Association & Council (ITAC) shows that there were 23.6 million teleworkers in the U.S. as of October 2000 compared to 19.6 million a year earlier. The numbers of telecommuters are growing, as are the enabling technologies that allow more people to work remotely. Telecommuting offers many benefits to the organization, the employee, and the community at large, e.g. improved recruitment and retention of skilled professionals, lower real estate and overhead costs, increased employee productivity, greater job satisfaction, decreased traffic congestion, reduced energy consumption, and less air pollution.
Hoteling, based on the concept of sharing a single workstation among multiple users, is an alternative work option that can be combined with telecommuting. An employee reserves a temporary workstation when it is needed instead of having a permanent workspace. Potential candidates for hoteling typically spend a significant amount of time away from the office and are equipped with portable technology such as laptop computers. A space reservation system enables the organization to utilize its office resources more efficiently. The greatest space savings occur when employees work at least 2-3 days out of the office.
Three important drivers led IS to implementation of the Flexiplace/Hoteling Pilot: the need to identify successful recruitment and retention strategies for skilled personnel; the need to maximize the utilization of space for IS personnel in the Headquarters area; and the need to improve levels of employee satisfaction in IS. Below is a discussion of how each of these drivers contributed to the decision to implement the pilot.
Recruitment and Retention Strategy. At least one-fifth of the current IS workforce will be eligible to retire over the next five years. Almost 50% of this group will be comprised of computer specialists. Research has shown that the Federal IT sector, along with private industry, will be faced with a serious labor shortage in the coming years-corporate recruiters indicate there could be as many as 20 vacancies available for every qualified IT worker. In this tight labor market, employers must be resourceful to attract such highly sought after professionals. The IS organization is in need of skilled personnel as the Service implements the modernization of its computer systems over the next decade. Keeping valuable personnel satisfied and productive has become critical to organizational success.
A February 1999 Report to the Secretary of the Treasury on "Responding to the Crisis in IT Skills" documented a number of workforce challenges that will significantly impact each Treasury bureau's ability to recruit and retain valuable skills. The report recommended that flexible work arrangements be examined as a recruitment and retention strategy since "such programs can be important criteria to technical employees choosing their workplace." Benefits such as telecommuting can help to level the playing field with private industry due to government salary limitations.
Space Utilization. IS must deal with a serious space shortage in the New Carrollton, MD Federal Building (NCFB), a complex largely occupied by IS Headquarters employees. There is increasing demand to accommodate new employees and contractors due to the IRS restructuring and systems modernization. One of the four new IRS business units-Small Business and Self-Employed-is now headquartered at NCFB, a reality not envisioned during the original space planning process. Space needs have been met by leasing additional real estate in the DC metro area. Space is an expensive resource, the second largest cost following salaries. Hoteling is a work option that can help to maximize the utilization of available space holdings.
Employee Satisfaction. The newly restructured IRS has embraced employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and business results as the Service's three corporate performance measures. Employee satisfaction or morale, directly impacted by the quality of work life in the IS organization, needs to be improved-a conclusion supported by survey data collected over the years through numerous reorganizations and management changes. Public and private sector experience has demonstrated that telecommuting is a viable corporate strategy that enhances employee satisfaction which, in turn, leads to customer-focused business results.
The IRS has a servicewide flexiplace program that is described in Article 50 of the NORD V contract between IRS management and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). The IRS Flexiplace Program includes two options: (1) traditional flexiplace where an employee works at a remote site on a full-time basis; and (2) hourly flexiplace where an employee may work up to eighty hours per month at a site other than the office. The local agreement with NTEU Chapter 65, representing IRS Headquarters employees, provides the hourly flexiplace option in the Washington, DC area. [Different flexiplace agreements have been negotiated between management and local NTEU chapters in various geographical areas of the country.]
A March 1999 survey of participants in the IRS flexiplace program indicated that of over 2300 IS Headquarters employees, only 28 participated in hourly flexiplace, or about 1%. In IS field offices outside of the Washington, DC area, the survey did not show any flexiplace participants, either in the traditional or hourly flexiplace programs. [In field non-IS functions, 6,548 employees participate in traditional flexiplace and 11,608 employees participate in hourly flexiplace.] OPM's August 1998 Review of Federal Family-Friendly Workplace Arrangements attributed low employee participation rates to lack of management support at all levels and inadequate communication methods about the availability of telecommuting.
OIRM FLEXIPLACE/HOTELING PILOT
OIRM conducted its pilot from June 19 - October 20, 2000, working in partnership with local NTEU Chapter 65 as the pilot was designed. The memorandum soliciting pilot volunteers from among managers and employees was sent to all OIRM associates from both the Division Director and the Chapter 65 NTEU President. The pilot adhered to the provisions of the local Chapter 65 Hours Flexiplace Agreement.
Twenty volunteers initially participated-18 employees and 2 managers-working at home 1 to 3 days every week. When in the main office, participants were assigned a temporary workstation through a space reservation system and used their laptop to connect to the IRS network. A traveling phone system enabled employees to transfer their permanent phone/voice mail number to the temporary workstation. When working at home, participants were provided with remote access to email via their laptops. Pilot participants were also given cell phones, pagers and/or long distance calling cards as needed.
A fundamental part of the pilot's design was training for both managers and the flexiplace/hoteling participants. Training was conducted by an outside consultant who had private and public sector experience with flexible work programs. All OIRM managers received training on remote management skills that focused on managing based on results. Pilot participants received training on the responsibilities and strategies to be successful telecommuters.
A data-gathering strategy was devised to evaluate the effectiveness of flexiplace/hoteling arrangements. Information was collected from three groups: participants, their managers, and co-
workers. Surveys were administered both before and after pilot implementation to assess attitudes toward flexiplace and the degree of satisfaction with flexible work arrangements. After the pilot had passed its mid-way mark, three focus group sessions were conducted to identify key successes and major issues or concerns. The first session included participants only, a second was for managers only, and a third session of both participants and managers shared findings and identified recommendations for improvements.
An advisory group, consisting of management/employee/union representatives from OIRM as well as Systems Development (IS' largest function also planning to implement flexible work arrangements), assisted in resolving various implementation issues. These issues dealt with space, facilities, information technology/equipment, human resources, and program evaluation.
The following sections of the report include the General Findings that evaluate the pilot results based on IRS' corporate measures; specific findings and recommendations relating to three main pilot components-Management, IT/Technical Support and Hoteling; the Cost/Benefit Analysis that describes the costs and benefits associated with the pilot; and the General Recommendations that propose an action plan to extend flexiplace and hoteling arrangements throughout IS. The Appendices include a Flexiplace and Hoteling Handbook containing the "nuts-and-bolts" of how to promote participation in flexible work arrangements and a Flexiplace and Hoteling Strategic Communications Plan to market flexible work arrangements.
A survey instrument developed by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments was utilized to collect quantitative data for the Flexiplace/Hoteling Pilot. The instrument was converted into pre- and post-implementation surveys for the participants, managers, and coworkers.
The questions assessed the attitudes and perceptions of the respondents toward telecommuting, as well as the experiences of the flexiplace participants.
All pilot participants were asked to complete a survey prior to pilot startup (pre-implementation) and a comparable one at the end of the pilot (post-implementation). All OIRM managers were asked to complete the pre-implementation survey. The post-implementation survey was completed only by those OIRM managers who had employees participating in the pilot. For the coworker pre-implementation survey, a random sample was drawn from all non-manager OIRM employees in the Washington, DC area who were not participating in the pilot. The coworker post-implementation survey was given to a random sample of OIRM employees within those work groups having pilot participants.
Each question on the surveys was categorized by its relationship to IRS' three corporate measures: Employee Satisfaction, Customer Satisfaction and Business Results. Responses to the survey questions were coded on a five-point Likert scale from 1 to 5, with responses ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The survey results are presented in the remainder of this section.
The surveys contained questions that are categorized under the subheadings Morale, Autonomy, and Motivation; Social/Emotional Issues; and Manager Relations. Below is a discussion of the findings for each group of respondents:
Morale, Autonomy, and Motivation
Participants - The participants felt their morale improved during the pilot, they were more motivated while telecommuting than at the office, and they experienced greater flexibility in balancing their professional and personal lives. The telecommuters reported they were less likely to look for a new job. These statements are consistent with expectations prior to the pilot. The participants felt their level of autonomy either increased or remained the same while telecommuting. Overall, the participants were very satisfied with telecommuting.
Managers - The mangers felt that the morale and motivation of their telecommuters improved because of participation in the pilot. Telecommuters were provided the same level of autonomy as non-telecommuters. Managers reported an increase in flexibility for telecommuters in balancing their professional and personal lives. They were not convinced that telecommuting would prevent their employees from looking for new jobs. Overall, the managers were satisfied with telecommuting.
Coworkers - The non-telecommuters observed an increase in the telecommuters' level of motivation but believed that morale remained the same. They felt telecommuters had a slight increase in the level of autonomy in performing their tasks. They did not feel telecommuting would prevent an employee from looking for a new job.
Participants - Participants experienced a lower level of stress while telecommuting. They denied feeling lonely while working outside the office. The participants also did not lose their sense of belonging to the organization while telecommuting.
Managers - The managers noticed a decreased level of stress in their employees who participated in the pilot. They did not perceive that the telecommuters experienced a loss of identification with the organization.
Coworkers - The non-telecommuters felt the pilot participants were less stressed while telecommuting than prior to the pilot. They also did not feel the participants lost their sense of belonging to the organization, contrary to what they thought prior to the pilot.
Participants - After the pilot ended, participants agreed their managers had a positive attitude toward telecommuting. They felt the relationship with their manager remained the same, and their managers had the same expectations of telecommuters as non-telecommuting employees. Prior to the pilot, almost half of the participants thought their managers would have higher expectations.
Managers - All of the mangers indicated a positive attitude toward telecommuting. They did not experience communication problems with their telecommuters and believed their relationship remained the same. Most managers felt they had the same standards and expectations of telecommuters as non-telecommuters, although about one-third had higher expectations.
Coworkers - The non-telecommuters indicated their managers have a positive attitude toward telecommuting. They did not observe any communications problems between telecommuters and their managers. Relationships between managers and employees were unchanged by the telecommuting arrangement. Participants' coworkers believed managers held telecommuters to the same standards and expectations as other employees. Prior to the pilot, they thought managers would have higher standards and expectations for telecommuters.
The surveys contained three questions relating to customer service: the quality of work received by customers, the level of support customers expressed toward telecommuting, and the level of support coworkers had toward telecommuting. Below is a discussion of the findings for each group of respondents:
Participants - Pilot participants indicated the quality of work received by their customers either improved or remained the same as a result of flexiplace. Prior to implementation, the participants believed their customers would notice somewhat of an improvement in the quality of work. The participants perceived their customers to be supportive of telecommuting. Almost a third of the respondents indicated their customers were unaware of their participation in the pilot. The participants also believed their coworkers to be supportive of the telecommuting arrangement.
Managers - The managers indicated that customers noticed no decline in the quality of work delivered by telecommuters. They also felt that customers were unaware or neutral toward the telecommuting arrangement. Managers felt their non-flexiplace employees were neutral toward the telecommuters as well. These results are consistent with responses prior to implementation.
Coworkers - The participants' coworkers reported that customers noticed the same quality of work because of telecommuting, while prior to implementation they thought there might be a slight improvement. The coworkers expressed their support for telecommuting and believed that customers would be somewhat supportive. These results were consistent with the pre-implementation survey.
The survey contained questions categorized under the subheadings Productivity, Management, and Team Dynamics. Below is a discussion of the findings for each group of respondents:
Participants - The participants indicated their productivity improved during the pilot. They completed more work, on time, and with no decrease in quality. Participants felt they worked slightly more hours while telecommuting, probably the result of no commute and fewer distractions. The participants did not believe that others took advantage of telecommuting to work less. These views are consistent with their pre-pilot opinions.
Managers - One-half of the managers reported an improvement in the telecommuter's productivity; one-half indicated that productivity remained the same. The managers believed their telecommuters worked the same number of hours at home as in the office, and did not feel any of the participants took advantage of telecommuting to work less. These responses are consistent with expectations prior to the pilot. The managers indicated that an equal amount of work was completed while telecommuting compared to the office. Prior to the pilot, the managers expected more work to be completed.
Coworkers - The non-telecommuting coworkers did not notice an increase in the telecommuters' productivity, but neither did they note a decrease in work quality or timeliness. Their perception was that the telecommuters worked the same amount of hours at home as in the office and accomplished the same amount of work both places.
Participants - Participants were able to communicate effectively with their managers. They didn't believe telecommuting hindered their chances of being promoted. The participants felt strongly that telecommuting is good for the organization. These views are all consistent with perceptions prior to the pilot.
Managers - The managers indicated that telecommuting is good for the organization and provides a competitive advantage over organizations without such a program. They do not believe that participation in the flexiplace program will prevent employees from receiving promotions. Managers found that supervising telecommuters did not require a greater amount of time than supervising onsite employees. They felt they are fully aware of what their employees do in the office and were not concerned about work being done while a telecommuter was out of the office.
Coworkers - The non-telecommuters believed that the flexiplace program is good for the organization. They did not feel that participation would hinder promotion opportunities.
Participants - Participants did not disclose any problems with non-flexiplace coworkers. They did not consider the lack of interaction with coworkers to be an issue and there was no difficulty in holding group meetings. These responses were consistent with expectations prior to the pilot.
Managers - The managers reported no difficulty in holding group meetings that included telecommuters.
Coworkers - Non-telecommuters did not experience teamwork issues with the participants. They did not feel that lack of interaction was a problem; no difficulties with group meetings surfaced.
Employee Satisfaction. All respondents confirmed that telecommuting significantly increased the level of employee satisfaction for the participants and did not result in any deterioration in relationships with managers or coworkers.
Business Results. The type of work performed by the OIRM organization does not lend itself to typical quantitative measures of productivity. Based on participant, manager and coworker feedback, however, telecommuting did not adversely affect performance or teamwork. In fact, participants reported increases in productivity due to the ability to concentrate with fewer distractions, flexibility in scheduling work and personal activities, and improved employee satisfaction. In many cases communications were enhanced due to the telecommuting arrangement.
Selection Process for Flexiplace/Hoteling Participants. A memorandum was distributed to all OIRM employees soliciting volunteers for the pilot. Eligibility for flexiplace was based on criteria outlined in the local Chapter 65 Hours Flexiplace Agreement, along with Article 50 of the NORD V agreement. In addition to meeting these flexiplace requirements, volunteers had to be willing to participate in the hoteling arrangement, attend training and focus group sessions, use a laptop computer exclusively, and provide data for program evaluation purposes.
The following tools were distributed to all employees, along with the memorandum, to guide the flexiplace decision-making process:
Those interested in applying for the program then submitted Exhibit 50-1, the IRS Flexiplace Agreement, for approval and met with their manager to discuss the suitability of flexiplace/hoteling arrangements for the position. The number of approved candidates was twenty, matching the number of slots based on availability of laptops.
Types of Portable Tasks. Examples of remote work activities performed by both managers and employees who participated include the following:
Training. Two separate training sessions were conducted for OIRM managers and pilot participants and videotaped for future use. Other IS functions were invited to send attendees to the session for managers.
The training objective for managers was to change perceptions of flexiplace and impart the skills necessary to manage based on results rather than observation, including how to plan work, set timetables, assess progress, and provide performance feedback. The training objective for participants was to convey an understanding of flexiplace responsibilities and provide all participants with the most effective tools and techniques to telecommute successfully.
Both sessions for managers and pilot participants addressed these topics:
The session for managers also covered:
The session for participants also included:
Communications is defined as the ability to reach a participant when necessary; coordinate with coworkers; initiate new tasks/projects; follow-through on projects; and access support staff. A group code was created for all pilot participants to facilitate communications from project support staff and information-sharing with other participants.
Managers reported they did not experience communication problems with participants. The phone system was designed so that the participant's physical location would be transparent to the caller. The permanent phone number followed the employee to the hoteling cubicle and could be programmed to roll over to the cell phone when at home. Managers reported at first some uncertainty as to the best communication method for contacting participants--the VMS number, cell phone number or email. They had to get accustomed to the employee being either at home or in a hoteling cubicle assigned randomly (not his/her usual workstation) when in the office. Managers could not access the space reservation system to find out an individual's hoteling location on a given day. A change was made during the pilot whereby the concierges posted a listing at their cubicles to show space assignments for the week. After the initial learning curve, communications became normalized to previous levels.
Of the survey responses, ninety percent of the participants reported that the lines of communications on flexiplace days were either very good or excellent; ten percent rated communications as good. There was general agreement that the participant's physical work location was invisible to others and did not have a negative impact on relationships with managers, coworkers or customers.
Remote management is a manager's ability to regularly plan and schedule work with a participant and work team to accommodate flexiplace. The feedback takes into account how effective the manager is in supervising flexiplace employees, as well as his/her comfort level in managing based on results, not observation. The training sessions emphasized that performance standards do not change for flexiplace employees.
Managers experienced no significant adjustment period to flexiplace/hoteling nor a change in management style. They concluded that an employee's physical location did not matter, only the business results. Negative assumptions did not materialize. Managers who were "new" to management acknowledged a bit more difficulty with alternative work arrangements at first but were able to adjust over the course of the pilot.
Asked whether they have been able to effectively manage employees on flexiplace days, managers offered responses such as these:
Managers reported that employees have willingly altered their scheduled day at the home office to accommodate a business necessity on-site. Scheduling changes were due to the occurrence of meetings when phone-in was not possible or practical and coordination on assignments when physical presence was necessary.
Several changes in how flexiplace employees accomplish work assignments were noted by managers: work products were generally submitted when employees were on-site; certain tasks were saved for off-site that could affect timely transmission of paper documents; and employees had the ability to use a laptop regardless of their location. It was also noted that there was an occasional need to transmit a hard copy of a document to a remote employee other than via fax or email.
In general, participants reported that their manager was supportive of flexible work arrangements. In situations where managers were new more of an adjustment was needed. Some managers asked their flexiplace employees to justify working at home every week even though the tool, "Portable and Non-Portable Tasks," demonstrated that the employee performed portable work activities on a weekly basis. Some resistance was encountered in accommodating changes to regularly scheduled flexiplace days. Occasionally participants were asked to come in for specific meetings that they thought could have been attended remotely.
Performance is defined as the number of hours a participant works at the office vs. when at home; changes in the way his/her job is performed; effect of work planning and scheduling on performance while on flexiplace; changes in workload of coworkers; whether skills have been enhanced; and overall impact on performance.
Respondents were asked to evaluate the effect of flexiplace on overall job performance along with the various elements that comprise performance: productivity (quantity), work quality, timeliness of completion, client support, and work team support.
All of the survey responses from managers indicated that flexiplace had no negative impact on a participant's performance, other than computer downtime that occurred due to technical problems. Managerial concerns that employee performance might suffer did not materialize. One-half of the managers reported that flexiplace resulted in an increase in performance and one-half responded that performance remained the same. Noteworthy is that more than one-third of the managers indicated they had higher standards and expectations for their flexiplace employees than for on-site employees.
Effects of flexiplace on coworkers noted by managers were:
Participants liked working at home and reported they accomplished significantly more there than in the office. They reported a definite increase in satisfaction levels and quality of work life due to flexiplace. The survey data revealed these key findings for the participants:
Of the participant survey responses, 82% reported their productivity had either increased moderately or substantially, while 18% expressed no change overall. There were no reported decreases in performance. Workload shifts to coworkers were minimal. The following examples of how flexiplace impacted job performance were conveyed by participants:
Fewer interruptions and distractions in quiet environment allowed delivery of a higher quality product than in office setting.
More focused thinking time was available to plan, research and analyze work.
Improved organizational/technical skills permitted more efficient completion of tasks.
Tendency to start work earlier and finish work later due to lack of commute was common.
Improved job attitude had positive effect on quality of work-more creativity.
More organized system was developed to manage workload at home and in the office.
Planning work in advance was a necessity.
Flexibility to accomplish work at hours outside of the normal workday was available.
Ability to work partial days instead of taking a full day's leave for medical appointments or other commitments improved productivity.
Ability to provide better customer service was enhanced.
Not able to access intranet for research items which can cause delays working on certain assignments
Delay in printing documents until easy access to a printer
Unable to obtain manager signature on documents remotely
Most of the participants thought the training session held by the consultant was helpful in preparing them for flexiplace and hoteling arrangements. The training of prospective telecommuters and their managers is a key success factor for flexible work arrangements. Even though those selected for flexiplace are skilled professionals, training prepares them for the demands of remote work. Effective management practices remain the same in theory-key skills such as communicating, coaching, goal setting and teambuilding continue to play important roles. However, managers must learn to lead, motivate and manage performance at a distance. A survey by the American Management Association showed that two-thirds of remote workk programs judged to be highly successful provide training ("E-Work Guide: How to Make Teleworking Work for Your Organization;" 2000, p. 59).
For the Manager
For the Participant
For the IS Organization
Laptops and Docking Stations
Twenty laptop computers (DELL Latitude CPI Model PPX), docking stations (DELL Latitude C/Dock II), and Dell monitors were acquired for the pilot. Each laptop was prepped by the IS Laptop Center (hereafter referred to as LTC) and loaded with the Microsoft Windows NT software suite. Upon identification of the twenty pilot participants, the LTC configured each laptop with the individual's unique user profile to allow participants to have remote email access from home. In addition, IS Site Support equipped twenty hoteling cubicles with the docking stations and monitors to accommodate a full-size computer screen, keyboard and mouse when working in the main office.
The hoteling workstations provided complete connectivity to the IRS network or LAN, including the Internet/Intranet, using one of two options: the docking station/monitor option noted above or the NIC card option that afforded use of only the laptop. The participants did not have LAN connectivity from home due to the need for Secure Dial-In (SDI) encryption devices to ensure secure data transmission. The premise of the pilot was that portable work activities not requiring access to IRS systems would be performed remotely.
Prior to pilot startup, participants were given a hands-on orientation on laptop operation. A demonstration on how to use the laptop in a hoteling cubicle was also provided. A laptop user guide distributed by the LTC proved difficult to understand and a simplified version was subsequently developed for participants.
When the pilot became operational, the LTC and Site Support were contacted directly by participants to resolve any technical issues that arose. After the pilot's first month, responsibility for laptop technical support was transferred from the LTC to the IS Help Desk due to a reorganization. As a result, all computer related problems experienced by the participants had to be processed through the Help Desk, which handled desktop problems as well.
Eighteen of the twenty participants had problems with remote email access and docking station connectivity at pilot startup. Nine out of the eighteen participants had significant, recurring problems during the pilot's first month. The LTC and Site Support staff attempted to respond as quickly as possible, particularly during the pilot's first weeks, to ensure the equipment was functioning as expected. Some issues were easily corrected, such as resetting a user's profile. Others required considerable time before a solution could be identified, e.g. a modem that no longer worked or an "IP" error message that appeared when logging onto the system from a docking station. A few problems resurfaced after supposedly being fixed; in other cases, a new problem appeared once the current problem was solved. Significant computer downtime occurred for some participants, especially during the first month. Some of the participants had only minor equipment issues that resulted in minimal downtime. One individual who withdrew from the pilot after several weeks cited laptop problems as one of the factors in the decision not to participate.
Despite the frustration experienced, participants displayed a positive attitude in patiently working to solve their technical problems. Since replacement laptops were not available, most were able to plan work activities around their laptop issues without negatively impacting their flexiplace schedules or performance. The high level of resourcefulness and cooperation in sharing solutions with others in the group was admirable. After the learning curve of the pilot's first month, laptop/docking station problems were substantially reduced.
Equipment. Pilot data revealed that most of the IT equipment problems fell into the following categories:
(1) Discrepancies in laptop configurations both at home and in the hoteling cubicles. Many error messages appeared to stem from inaccurate laptop configurations based on a particular user and his/her location. Various technicians would also configure laptops differently, not having information on what settings worked. A number of laptops that were serviced would operate properly in the LTC but would not function when used from home or a hoteling cubicle. To the participants, configuration seemed a trial and error process. The LTC indicated that additional software loaded onto the laptop by a few of the participants generated some of the laptop performance problems.
(2) Inability to connect to the LAN using the laptop/docking station option in the hoteling cubicles. The connectivity problem appeared to result from dissimilarity of the internal components of both the laptops and docking stations, according to technicians who serviced the equipment. Even though all laptops were the same make/model and all docking stations were the same make/model, the internal components of each type of machine could vary and cause problems. As a result, participants either attempted to find a hoteling cubicle where connectivity worked or, in many instances, used the NIC card to connect directly to the LAN. The NIC card connection proved very reliable but deprived the participant of a full-size monitor, keyboard and mouse--the prime reason for employing the docking station configuration.
(3) Difficulty in accessing or synchronizing email remotely. Participants were often unable to access the email system from home and synchronize their email account in order to send and receive current messages. Part of the time this was due to the NCFB server experiencing problems or system usage being unusually high. More often, however, users were unable to connect and did not know the reason. In addition, the instructions in the Laptop Users Guide did not adequately explain the procedures to gain remote email access and synchronize one's messages.
Customer Support. Transfer of technical support for laptops from the LTC to the IS Help Desk had a negative impact on the participants in terms of receiving timely customer service. The LTC handled only laptop problems and considered the pilot a top priority customer. Although the IS Help Desk also placed a high priority on the pilot, their much larger customer base did not allow them to give the pilot the same rapid response that had been forthcoming from the LTC. Large workloads and a shortage of trained staff are the norm. As a result of a meeting with Help Desk management, it was agreed that technical problems submitted by flexiplace/hoteling participants would be treated as a work stoppage to expedite resolution. Despite this designation, it could sometimes take days or weeks before a problem was addressed. Participants reported that the quality of technical support was also an issue in addition to quick turnaround. The lack of skilled technicians knowledgeable about laptop operation in a mobile work environment proved to be a barrier in expeditiously resolving problems.
Training. The flexiplace/hoteling participants had different skill levels and proficiency in the use of laptops. Some were far more self-sufficient than others in being able to troubleshoot problems. Many participants thought the laptop orientation could be simplified and take place in the actual work setting. One person reported an improvement in her technical skills due to working with a laptop.
Remote Access to IRS Systems and Intranet/Internet. In order to implement the pilot on schedule, OIRM did not make access to IRS systems and the Intranet/Internet available to participants. Access is dependent on the current SDI technology via an encryption device. With SDI technology all data is encrypted whether the security level warrants it, slowing down system traffic. This can make SDI use very tedious and cumbersome. In addition, the current process for obtaining the technology and security clearance is lengthy and inefficient. Many participants, however, faced situations where having remote access was necessary to perform certain work activities, especially as assignments changed. Even though the lack of this capability did not diminish their performance, 73% indicated a need for this access. The one participant who withdrew from the pilot cited the inability to access certain systems from home as a contributing factor.
Initially all twenty pilot participants received Qualcomm cell phones so that they could have a direct phone line for business use when working from home. The intent was to eliminate the need for and expense of a separate data line from home. The cell phones also had voice mail and pager capabilities. It was possible to redirect calls from the employee's permanent government phone number to the cell phone. The phones ensured that participants had a tool that would facilitate communications regardless of their location.
IRS offered two cell phone plans: one for unlimited nationwide calls and the other for unlimited calls within a specific geographic region. Telecommunications recommended the nationwide plan to give participants greater flexibility and to evaluate the business need for unlimited calling ability. Participants received their monthly cell phone bills for certification and forwarded them to Telecommunications for payment.
Reliability of cell phones was inconsistent especially in fringe areas of the DC metro region. There is general agreement, however, that cell phone performance has its limitations based on the geographic area, types of interference that may occur, and service provider. Some participants found that reception could vary depending on what room of their home they were in and strength of the tower signal. Two participants could not get a strong enough signal at home to make the cell phone useful. They were given a calling card and pager to accommodate their remote phone needs. During the course of the pilot some participants were switched by Telecommunications to a Nokia phone to improve signal reception or resolve other issues. The Nokias were not a trouble-free solution either for the participants and could be more costly.
A few individuals had a second phone line in their home or decided to incur the cost of installing an extra line. The second line prevented their home phone number from being tied up when participants were connected to the computer modem.
Some participants reported that cell phone bills were unusually high given the limited usage and their business needs. The bills also did not arrive on a regular basis; one participant had received only a single bill over a four-month period. One individual reported a desire for cell phone headsets to facilitate participation in conference calls.
Traveling Phone System
The pilot enlisted the support of Telecommunications, with the assistance of Main Treasury, to develop and implement a traveling phone system. This system allowed participants who had reserved a hoteling cubicle on a particular date to transfer their permanent phone number/VMS to that cubicle. This meant that participants had only to give one number to coworkers and customers, not needing to use the number of the phone instrument in the occupied cubicle. The system also allowed participants to transfer their permanent phone number to any remote location and their cell phone. The VMS number, however, could not be transferred outside of the Treasury-wide Digital Telecommunications System. This limitation did not prove to be a problem since cell phones could accommodate voice messages received outside of the DTS system. A brief testing period was arranged prior to full implementation of the traveling phone system and the start of the pilot. Step-by-step instructions were developed for users to follow.
The traveling phone system was successful with only minor modifications required. Once the participants went through the transfer procedure a few times, the system became as automatic as dialing one's VMS number. Participants definitely valued the ability to be reached via a permanent number without having to constantly update others when their physical work location changed. Overall the feature permitted employees to provide better customer service and was worth the added cost. Participants did have to remember each time, however, to activate and deactivate the phone in the hoteling cubicle. Space reservation software that automatically transfers one's permanent number to the occupied cubicle upon check-in is available from various vendors.
Portable Printers and Remote Access FAX Software
To reduce pilot implementation costs, a decision was made not to purchase printers for all participants but to locate portable printers (Canon Bubble Jet BJ-30) from IS inventory. Only five could be secured and were given to those employees, on a priority basis, whose work activities required remote printing capability. All participants would be able to print from the network printer when occupying hoteling cubicles.
FAX software for remote transmission/receipt of documents was available for all the participants to have installed on their laptops.
Portable printers worked well overall. One had a mechanical part breakdown that needed repair. Several participants required replacement ink cartridges. Eighty-two percent of the pilot participants indicated a need for future printer availability.
FAX software was installed by only two participants. One of the participants used the capacity on a limited basis. A majority of the participants indicated no need to have access to FAX capability.
On a weekly basis pilot participants reserved workstations for those dates they would be in the office. A support person known as a "concierge" assigned the workstations randomly through a space reservation system developed for the pilot by an IRS computer specialist using Microsoft ACCESS software. The "Hotel OIRM" system gave a primary and alternate concierge* access to a calendar to determine the availability of workstations on specific dates. Both concierges posted weekly schedules at their own workstations to keep managers, coworkers and participants informed of individuals' on-site locations.
Due to the shortage of unoccupied workstations in NCFB, the participants' own cubicles (analyst stations), located on the 8th floor, were utilized for hoteling. Business files and personal possessions were transferred to lockable storage cabinets randomly located on the 8th floor. A docking station, monitor and mouse were installed in each of the 20 workstations for participants to use in connecting their laptop to the IRS network. The traveling phone system gave participants the ability to forward their permanent phone number to the reserved hoteling cubicle (described in the IT/Technical Support section).
Basic equipment and supplies such as a telephone, writing paper, pens and pencils were provided. Other supply needs were met through normal work group channels. A Flexiplace/Hoteling Pilot Manual was placed in each workstation containing the Hoteling Guide, traveling phone instructions, and feedback sheets to record comments and issues. Temporary mailboxes for receipt of mail during the pilot were set up in a central location.
An employee participated in the hoteling component of the pilot who met the following criteria:
(1) he/she would not be in the main office three or more days a pay period due to flexiplace/AWS; (2) his/her work did not require special adaptive equipment unavailable in a standard hoteling cubicle; and (3) he/she did not have larger space/storage requirements. Based on this criteria, Information Resources Accessibility Program participants and managers did not hotel. A total of 13 participants took part in both the flexiplace and hoteling arrangements.
To identify hoteling best practices, the pilot's advisory group visited PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in Fairfax, Virginia, a leader in alternative work arrangements. The group interviewed the administrator of the hoteling program and toured the facility. PWC employees hotel on a routine basis if they are out of the office more than 75% of their time due to client visits, travel, telecommuting or leave. Even those employees who are in the main office most of the time make their workstations available to others when they are out for a day or longer.
PWC has a sophisticated system where employees can reserve a workstation on-site, by phone, or via the Web. A touchscreen kiosk is set up on each floor of the facility so that employees can reserve a space or locate another employee. Special areas are designed for employees to store their files, reference materials, etc. in assigned storage bins on certain floor. One best practice adopted for the OIRM pilot was permitting participants to reserve the same workstation when in the office two or more consecutive days per week. PWC's experience indicated that employees appreciated the ability to remain in the same workstation whenever possible.
*These two individuals filled this function on a collateral basis along with their other full-time responsibilities.
The primary and alternate concierges reported that the space reservation system developed just for the pilot was easy to use and efficient. Minimal time was required by the concierges to make reservations-the participant submitted a request for a workstation via email or telephone; the concierge then selected a workstation and notified the participant. Unfortunately, though, if both concierges were out of the office for the day, a next-day request could not be met.
In a few instances managers did not know the hoteling cubicle an employee was occupying on a given day. The weekly posting of schedules at the concierges' workstations appeared to address this issue. The posting also allowed participants to determine if a workstation was vacant that could be used if there were connectivity problems in the assigned cubicle.
Feedback from participants on the hoteling arrangements is summarized as follows:
Some managers and participants expressed a preference that hoteling not be mandatory. The one participant who withdrew from the program found hoteling, among other issues, to have a negative impact on his job responsibilities. Feedback also indicated that for hoteling to be worthwhile, the employee needs to work remotely at least 2 days/week. Overall, most pilot participants reported that flexiplace was an important enough benefit to them that they would share workstations.
The sharing of workspace can represent a significant change in organizational culture. Hoteling is a fundamental shift in work patterns that requires successful use of change management techniques to bring about a neutral or positive impact on the morale of the individuals who hotel. With the effective use of such techniques, the organization can help manage employee expectations, reduce anxiety, secure buy-in and ensure the success of hoteling ("E-Work Guide;" p. 56).
One of the objectives of the OIRM Flexiplace/Hoteling Pilot was to quantify the costs and benefits associated with flexible work arrangements. As with many programs, there were both tangible and intangible costs and benefits realized during the pilot. The table below displays the overall lifecycle costs for a flexiplace/hoteling program based on the pilot experience. The majority of these costs and benefits can be extended to an IS-wide implementation of the program. The result of implementing a flexiplace/hoteling program within IS, consisting of 100 participants over a three-year period, is a potential net savings of $805,839. The discussion following the table analyzes these costs and benefits, both for the pilot as well as implementation on a larger scale.
Individual Telecommunications Costs
Pilot Related Costs
Total for 3 Years
*Pilot Telecommunications costs reflect only the four month period June 19 to october 20, 2000. Training costs include $7,941 for the training vendor and $9,000 TV studio costs to create videotapes for future use.
in lieu of desktops once every 3 years. Computing Equipment costs based on difference in cost between a laptop and desktop computer.
*First year Telecommunications Costs composed of one-time charge to set up Training Phone number for each participant and estimated monthly cell phone bills. Monthly cell phone bills estimate is based on the upper limit of the average cell phone bills experienced during the pilot.
*Space Management Software Cost is an estimate provided by AgilQuest Inc. based on 100 spaces being managed. First year costs estimated to increase by $215, and outyear costs by $108 for each additional space managed.
*Space Cost Avoidance based on number of rnneeded cubicles due to flexiplace. The money does not return to IS, but provides opportunity for space to be released for other uses.
No formal project office was created for the Flexiplace/Hoteling Pilot. Instead, an advisory group was formed with manager, employee, and union representatives serving on a collateral duty basis to provide input in developing the program. The time spent by these personnel could be estimated and allocated as costs to the program. However, for most advisory group members the involvement was limited to attending a one-to-two hour weekly meeting. Even those members of the advisory group who were more intimately involved in the project had other responsibilities. For these reasons, no program management costs are included.
A contract was placed with ARCCA Inc. to provide training services for the pilot. This was a one-time cost of $7,941. The vendor-facilitated training sessions were videotaped for use by future flexiplace/hoteling participants and their managers. The cost of the television studio and personnel to tape the two training sessions totaled $9,000, for a total training related expense of $16,941.
Several options were available to meet the telecommunications needs of flexiplace/hoteling participants. All employees were initially provided a cell phone for communications. The cell phones were issued with a basic service package and no calling plan-calls were billed by the minute. This resulted in a wide variation in costs among participants, ranging from a low of $22 to a high of $395. The average monthly bill was $152. Several of the participants have since had their cell phones replaced and were put on a calling plan which should reduce monthly costs. Three of the participants either could not get a signal at their alternate work site or determined they did not need the phone. These participants were provided a government calling card and pager. The pager costs were relatively small, $20 per month for each pager. The calling card costs cannot be determined because bills were not issued to the card user.
Controlling the monthly cell phone cost is important for expansion of the flexiplace/hoteling program. There are different calling plans available which can significantly reduce the monthly expense. To estimate future costs, the mean cell phone bill during the pilot was used as the average monthly bill. This value is $182, still a high monthly cost but represents the worst case scenario. The following table portrays the estimated average costs for a single individual during the pilot, as well as for future program implementation.
Pilot (4 months)
Pilot participants were provided a Dell notebook computer which served as their exclusive laptop both in the main office and at home. The hoteling cubicles were equipped with a docking station configured with a monitor, full size keyboard, and mouse. The cost for this equipment was $3,720 for each installation, and totaled $74,400 for the pilot. Each laptop computer was issued to a participant after his/her network profile was replicated. The computer was configured with the MS Office suite and any specific applications (e.g., MS Project) needed by the participant for work responsibilities. All software provided was available under current IRS licenses; no additional licensing costs were incurred.
The IRS has stated its intent to establish a three-year replacement cycle for desktop computer systems. If this occurs, then a planned expenditure of funds each year will be budgeted for equipment replacement. The cost of purchasing a Dell desktop computer from the TDA contract is $1,296.00. A Dell Latitude notebook computer costs $2,707.00, and a docking station costs an additional $668.00. Therefore, the difference between providing an employee with a desktop computer vs. a notebook computer/docking station combination is $2,079.00. The cost differential is used in the lifecycle cost model to reflect the additional costs associated with a flexiplace/hoteling program. This cost is only incurred in the first year of an employee's participation and every third year thereafter. Accordingly, the lifecycle cost model is built with a three-year life span. The tables on the next page display the pilot and implementation hardware costs based on a system configuration similar to that deployed by IS.
Laptop & Docking Station
Cost Per Unit
Laptop with Windows NT 4,
Dell Latitude OPxJ
Pentium III 750MHz
10GB Hard Drive
Network Interface Card
3COM 10/100 CardBus
Nylon Carrying Case
Total for Laptop
MS PS/2 Style
Total for Docking Station
Total for Laptop & Docking Station
Desktop System with Integrated Sound and Network Interface, Windows NT4, CD-ROM, FDD, mouse & keyboard
Dell Optiplex GX110
Pentium III, 866MHz
128VB RAM, 10GB HD
Dell M781mm Monitor
Total for Desktop
Difference between providing new laptop as opposed to new desktop system
Difference between laptop and desktop with inclusion of docking station
Prices from TDA-B BPA with ITC, PlanetGov.Com 12/27/2000
Space Management Software
An industry best practice for hoteling systems is the use of an integrated space management application that allows individuals to make and modify reservations for workspace needed in the main office. Expansion of the hoteling program beyond a small number of participants will greatly benefit from the use of an application of this type. To estimate the cost of a space management application, the vendor AgilQuest Inc. was contacted to obtain a ballpark figure. The cost of AgilQuest's software with implementation services for 100 spaces is displayed in the table below.
Installation (100 spaces)
Total First Year Cost
Installation of more than 100 spaces is estimated to increase the cost by $150/space; the annual license fee would increase by $108. Note that these figures are estimates only-any software license must be negotiated and procured through the normal acquisitions process.
Space Cost Avoidance
One of the greatest corporate benefits achieved through flexiplace and hoteling operations is the reduction in space requirements for employees on a daily basis. The ability to house the same number of employees in a smaller amount of space results in significant real estate savings. While the IRS cannot reduce the size of the building at New Carrollton, reducing daily space utilization would allow the employees and contractors located in other buildings (e.g., Salubria) to be relocated to NCFB.
Thirteen cubicles were available during the pilot for participants in the hoteling program. Of this number, six were occupied on an average day, with utilization ranging from one to ten cubicles. The maximum observed space utilization was 77 percent, resulting in 23 percent of the available cubicles that could potentially be reassigned to other individuals or organizations. The fully loaded cost of a cubicle at NCFB is $18,000 per year. Therefore, $18,000 of space costs could have been avoided during the four-month pilot, as displayed below.
Real Estate Cost Avoidance
Cost Per Cubicle
# of Cubes Available
Maximum Daily Usage
Minimum Available Pct.
Potential Annual Cost Avoidance
Pilot Savings (4 months)
Expansion of the flexiplace/hoteling program to other IS divisions will allow the organization to reallocate 23 percent of the workstations. The potential annual cost avoidance, based on a participation rate of 100 employees, is $414,000 (see table below).
Number of Participants
Cubicles Available for Reassignment
Annual Cost Avoidance
It is important to note that, under current government policy, the potential cost avoidance will not result in additional budget funds for IS. Rather, the cost avoidance signifies the potential to reduce the need for space in facilities external to NCFB. If a sufficient number of employees participate in flexiplace/hoteling, the need to lease an entire building (e.g., Salubria) could be eliminated. Alternatively, if the Service were to return the space to GSA for assignment to a non-IRS organization, a reduction in total real estate costs incurred by the Service could result.
A number of studies have demonstrated a decrease in employee turnover after implementation of a telecommuting program. Additionally, telecommuting has proven to be a positive factor in recruitment of new employees. The cost of employee turnover has been estimated to be between 93% and 150% of an employee's annual salary . The most conservative estimate, calculated below, reveals the potential for significant savings from a reduction in employee turnover:
Cost of recruiting
33% of salary
Cost of training
10% of salary
Cost of the learning curve
50% of salary
Cost of recruiting
33% of salary
Cost of training
10% of salary
Cost of the learning curve
50% of salary
In 1999, OIRM conducted an exit survey of 100 employees who left the IS organization during the period June 1996 - September 1998. Almost one-fifth of survey respondents indicated one of their top reasons for leaving was to reduce commuting time. If the IS organization had an active flexiplace program in place, strongly supported by management, fewer employees may have left.
The exit survey data was used to quantify what the potential savings might be from a reduction in IS employee turnover. The average number of employees leaving IS from 1992 to 1999 is 524, with an average of 407 during 1998 and 1999. If the results of the exit survey can be extended to the full population of employees who left IS, approximately 69 employees in 1998 and 1999 wanted to reduce their commuting time. For the Flexiplace/Hoteling Pilot, 14% of those eligible within OIRM volunteered for the program. If this percentage holds across IS, then potentially 10 of the employees who decided to leave might have volunteered for a flexiplace/hoteling program. Among the flexiplace/hoteling participants surveyed after the pilot, 53% indicated they were less likely to look for another job if they could telecommute on a regular basis. This leaves an estimated reduced recruitment need of 5 employees each year. The median grade/step of all employees leaving IS during 1998 and 1999 was a grade 9 step 4. Using the 2000 General Schedule pay scale (without locality pay), this loss equates to $35,617. Therefore, a flexiplace/hoteling program has the potential to save $165,620/year in recruitment costs.
(1) Partner with AWSS to manage space as a corporate asset and institute a space management system with hoteling capabilities. AWSS has servicewide responsibility for space and can implement that charge more effectively with an automated system that offers the ability to reserve temporary space for various needs such as hoteling.
(2) Partner with operating units who already work in a remote management environment such as LMSB, SBSE, and W&I. These business units have learned to overcome the perceived hurdles associated with flexiplace and are likely to support hoteling concept.
(3) Partner with Finance to reallocate projected real estate savings for such uses as investment in technology to support mobile workers and employee training. The ability to recoup savings will provide additional incentive for IS and other customers to participate in the hoteling program.
(4) Form a project team, with representatives who can provide expertise in specialized areas, to develop a technology implementation plan that begins at funding approval and ends with an identified number of teleworkers being set up at home in a specific month. The team will conduct a technology assessment that identifies the end-to-end connectivity and technology base to fully support each teleworker. The areas represented on the technology team are telecommunications; IT equipment, installation, and support; and security.
(5) Pursue contracting options for products/services that can serve the needs of a mobile workforce, i.e. wireless phone options and hoteling enhancements. A number of information technology applications exist to accommodate the demand for increased mobility and assure secured networks. Vendors can also help define computing and telecommunications needs and recommend integrated solutions.
(6) Designate an allocation of laptop computers/peripherals as part of the periodic replenishment cycle of desktop computers. The availability and distribution of these laptops will be coordinated with the implementation plan as each group of teleworkers is set up to work at home.
(7) Collaborate with NTEU to identify IS positions eligible for hourly flexiplace based on portability of work. Organizations need to analyze the job activity, not the job title, to determine suitability for flexiplace. The key is to find jobs with at least a portion of the work that can be done away from the office.
(8) Determine expansion and rollout process for future participation in program (e.g. IS-wide steering committee. Refer to the Flexiplace/Hoteling Handbook (Appendix A) for guidance on the process. Distribute an electronic survey to IS employees/managers to gauge interest in flexiplace.
(9) Implement the Strategic Communications Plan for the flexiplace/hoteling program (refer to Appendix B). It is necessary to communicate information about the program on an ongoing basis and using a variety of communication channels. This will reinforce the importance of the program and encourage participation.
(10) Identify an executive champion for the flexiplace program. The champion will promote the concept among the organization's leaders, offer guidance to overcome organizational roadblocks, and assure that adequate funding is secured for the program once the plan is accepted.