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Study Says GSA Teleworking Employees Should Have Video Conferencing

Outfitting federal employees with collaborative technology at their homes may prove more effective than continuing the use of telework centers.

A study of the closing of nearly half of the General Services Administration (GSA) “telework centers” it had established in the Washington, D.C. area says the GSA should consider closing the rest of the centers and providing its employee with video conferencing equipment.

The report “Teleworking Opinions in the U.S. Government: Telework Centers Versus Work from Home,” was produced by LifeSize Communications, a stakeholder company that provides high-definition video integration. The study surveyed 286 federal employees, and 75 percent said the “GSA telework centers are unnecessary,” and more than 66 percent said “they would not use telework centers.”

The remaining telecenters provide a workplace close to GSA employees’ homes so they would not have to commute to their offices. When all the centers were operational they cost about $3 million per year to operate. However, the GSA did not own the centers with many operated by non-profit organizations or universities. Much of the centers’ business was from the federal government. In February 2011, GSA announced it would discontinue funding seven telework centers. Those centers are:

Bowie State University in Bowie, Md.
Fredericksburg, Va.
Laurel Lakes in Laurel, Md.
Prince Frederick, Md.
Waldorf, Md.
Kearneysville, W.V.
Winchester, Va.

Telework centers that continued to operate are:
Manassas, Va. – continuing at George Mason University (GMU)
Manassas Campus Fairfax, Va. – continuing in GMU space
Hagerstown, Md. – continuing at a different location
Frederick, Md.
Stafford, Va. – run by GMU
Woodbridge, Va. – run by GMU

Survey respondents were asked if any of the telework centers were “a solution for teleworking in the federal government,” and 72.4 percent said the centers were not necessary. The respondents also said they preferred teleworking from home or other locations.

However, about a quarter of respondents (24.8 percent) said telework centers do offer an advantage to “agency-supplied technology over teleworking from home,” but 41.8 percent of respondents said “telework centers offered no advantage at all.”

In addition, 59.7 percent of survey participants said they would prefer to work from home “if technology and quality of service for teleworking were identical” to a teleworking center. Nearly the rest—28.3 percent—said they would prefer to work from home most of the time.

In the “overview” section of the report, LifeSize says a “possible conclusion to be drawn from this survey would appear to be that the General Services Administration may be better served by outfitting federal employees with the collaborative technology—including cost-effective video conferencing—at their employees’ homes than to continue to offer telework centers. The perceived benefits of such centers are outweighed by the dubious convenience they offer federal employee.”