Thursday, March 02, 2006

Patent Office "Hoteling" Experiment a Success

Once again the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star demonstrates that it's the only major daily newspaper in Virginia that recognizes that there are alternatives to the tax-and-pave transportation policy advocated by Virginia's Political Establishment. This morning, the newspaper highlights a successful experiment by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in "hoteling," a form of telework.
"Hoteling" began in 1997 in a trial run with 18 trademark attorneys. After the SPTO outfitted them with the necessary computer and other equipment, the lawyers began working at home. Required to come into the office just once a week, they shared space there, making a reservation for a workstation in advance in much the same way a traveler books a hotel room (hence the name).
The number of attorneys has since grown to 220. By September, the number of "hoteling" attorneys could increase to 500.

Do the math: 500 attorneys driving to work only once a week. That translates into 400 people on an average day who not commuting to work. That's only a drop in the bucket for the entire Washington metro workforce but it sure beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. And if every government agency and major private employer emulated Patent & Trademark's teleworking/hoteling experience, we'd be taking hundreds of thousands of commuters off the road.

How much does it cost to do what Patent & Tradmarks has done? That's the beauty. Organizations that adopt hoteling/mobile workforce strategies save money -- big money -- by cutting their office overhead! And that's not counting savings in worker productivity.

And to think there are people out there who think that raising taxes and laying asphalt is the only way to solve Virginia's congestion crisis. Once again, I shake my head in wonder.


At 12:15 PM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

Here is something that the GSA says about telework.

"Telework has a long history as a proven program providing benefits for both employer and employee. Research shows that telework improves the quality of work/life and job performance, i.e., reduces office overcrowding and provides a distraction-free environment for reading, thinking, and writing. Studies have also found an improvement in retention, leave usage, and productivity. ITAC conducted a study and found that telework reduced turnover by an average of 20 percent, boosted productivity by up to 22 percent, and trimmed absenteeism by 60 percent. Additionally, it allowed companies to adhere more closely to the Clean Air Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other studies produced similar findings.

"An October 1999 study by Telework America showed that employees who telework can save their agencies up to $10,000 per year in reduced absenteeism and retention costs. A study by the American Management Association found that the absenteeism costs were reduced by 63 percent, an average of $2,000 saved for every employee. The State of Arizona evaluated their telework program and found senior managers identified increased efficiency, greater productivity, and enhanced employee morale as the biggest program benefits. Many Federal agencies with long-standing telework programs have found a decrease in the need for office space. These factors all impact the cost of doing business. AT&T estimates its telework program saves them $25 million annually in real estate expenses. For employees, cost savings from reduced commuting as well as improved morale and work productivity were identified as benefits."

At 5:58 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

It is what I have been saying: get the jobs out of the city so they are not all in one place.

This is a win win win win situation. Where do I sign up?

At 7:45 PM, Blogger Jim Wamsley said...

Sign up at TeleworkVA

At 11:10 PM, Blogger Lucy Jones said...

Me too. I checked our policies at work today to see if there is anything new on teleworking... Nothing yet. Still, we can only work from home if the doctor certifies a temporary medical condition and the agency head decides it's absolutely necessary... I hope the bill passes that says agencies must at least consider providing telecommuting. I would definitely have a better attitude.

At 4:54 AM, Blogger Larry Gross said...

The GSA sounds like they did a good job "instrumenting" their pilot program and by that I mean they established relevant performance metrics to ensure that ALL of the benefits and "costs" were collected and evaluated.

What holds up telework for both private and government (which is the dominate employer in the Wash Metro Area) is the simple fact that some supervisors don't like the idea of not seeing people at desks.

It's far easier for them to stroll into someone's office and ask what the progress is on a certain issue than to try to get "in touch".

It's the culture and it is changing. Good bosses are capable of directing projects without having to see "faces" but it requires much more granular milestones - daily, sometimes hourly rather than after-the-fact monthly progress reports.

I'm retired now but I know folks still working that have been given Blackberrys and it's NOT optional to have them on. Not only are employees expected to have them on but they are expected to respond immediately to calls and emails or else be called on the carpet about their lack of availability.

(be careful what you wish for!)

Some folks actually turn off their blackberries at "quitting time" to signify that they are no longer "on the clock".

Others, are expected to be "on call" beyond the "normal" workday - and, in fact, some prefer to work however long it takes to achieve something, THEN take a break!

If the push for TOLL roads continues and they actually get constructed - along with higher gas prices - I think, at some point, more and more employers will move in this direction simply by calculating how much a remote computing environment would cost verses tolls.

Some will never happen because of the sensitivity of the data though.

The Patent Office has different security issues than say DOD or DOD contractors. Allowing a contractor to work at home on data that is classified SECRET or even Confidential will not happen. No responsible agency is going to allow remote workers to have hard drives on home computers that has this level of information on them.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Once again, nice going, Larry.

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