The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Meeting of September 8, 2003, Washington D.C. on Repositioning for New Realities: Securing EEOC's Continued Effectiveness

Remarks of Aletha Brown, Inspector General, EEOC:
"Reducing Infrastructure Costs Through Increased Use of Telework"

Good Morning Madam Chair, Madam Vice Chair, honorable Commissioners, General Counsel, and guests. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to provide a summary of the report issued by the Office of Inspector General which looked at reducing infrastructure costs through increased use of telework in four EEOC field offices. I will present the study objectives, its scope and methodology, and the observations, conclusions, and recommendations that resulted. Finally, I will briefly describe OIG's headquarters study and pilot frequent telework program, currently underway, and explain what you can expect by way of results.

On January 8, 2003 the Office of Inspector General issued a report based on our analysis of four EEOC field offices. These offices were the Miami, Dallas, and Los Angeles District Offices and the Washington Field Office. The report entitled, Reducing Infrastructure Costs Through Increased Use of Telework, concluded that with the commitment of management and staff, extensive training at all levels, and investment in the appropriate technological support, the implementation of a frequent telework program in these offices could lead to significant costs savings, without sacrificing productivity and service to our customers.

The primary objective of the study was to determine whether EEOC can save on infrastructure costs and achieve other benefits through extensive use of telework, while sustaining or improving mission performance. We define infrastructure as the non-personnel items that EEOC needs to operate. Specifically, real estate, telecommunications, information technology, workstations, furniture and other items such as printers. To address this objective we asked these key questions:

We defined frequent telework as a situation whereby an employee works away from the central office two or more days per week.

The scope of this study was a review of Agency infrastructure as it relates to telework and a detailed examination of costs and savings, as well as other telework issues, at selected field offices. We chose to assess the Dallas, Los Angeles and Miami District Offices and the Washington Field Office because they show strong potential cost savings characteristics such as: an existing telework program, many staff, high rent costs, and difficult commuting environment. We used five primary data gathering and analysis methods to achieve study objectives. They were:

OIG's study did not include any analysis of implementing frequent telework programs in locations other than the four offices we visited; workload analysis to determine whether EEOC offices as a whole or individually are adequately staffed; or real estate savings that could be achieved through non-telework means such as relocating to less costly locations, or closing offices. Nor did it recommend mandatory frequent telework for Agency employees. Rather, it provided a model that allows for both maximum and minimum savings based upon various levels of employee participation.

As for the results, our cost model showed that implementation of frequent telework in offices we visited could result in substantial overall net savings. Savings are substantial for the two offices in leased federal space (Dallas and Los Angeles) and for the two offices in commercial space (WFO and Miami). Study results using two models, showed the Optimum Model, based on 85 percent participation by staff most suitable for frequent telework, resulted in net cumulative savings of about $1.3 million. Annual net savings are strongly negative in the first year, due to start up costs. In the second through fifth year, savings are substantial and steady, and will continue to accrue beyond five years. The Survey Model, using the 57 percent participation rate obtained through survey of staff in the 4 field offices, resulted in savings of $700,000.

To achieve the cost savings identified in both models, staff would telework two or more days per week, allowing more efficient use of the central office space through office sharing or similar arrangements. Office sharing would result in reduced space needs that would lead to lower costs for real estate, producing savings that are substantially higher than the cost to set up and maintain a frequent telework program.

We also identified several critical factors that affect whether a frequent telework program will allow an office to maintain or improve its overall performance. These factors are:

We found that much of the work that staff performs at EEOC field offices is well suited for frequent telework. Well suited tasks include work which requires concentration and large blocks of uninterrupted - independent time; work that has well defined beginning and end points, that is portable, that can be done with limited unplanned face-to-face communication and minimal supervision; and work where the need for specialized material or equipment is minimal. Those positions we identified as best suited are: Administrative Judges, Investigators, Mediators and Trial Attorneys. Staff from each of these groups performs many tasks that are successfully performed by teleworkers in the private and public sector. We note that many supervisors, paralegals, program analysts, and other staff may also be able to successfully telework on a frequent basis, even though one or more of their tasks are closely tied to the central office. However, closer examination of these positions is required before a frequent telework decision should be made.

To ensure a successful telework program, employees need adequate equipment and supplies, or performance and morale may suffer markedly. Based on data obtained from 20 focus groups, 215 field office questionnaires, and interviews with employees at headquarters, the four offices we visited, the New York District Office (where forced telework occurred after the loss of World Trade Center space), and telework experts the major needs of teleworkers in the group we found to be best suited were:

We calculated the costs to implement frequent telework, which includes information technology, telecommunication, facility/real estate, and training for years 2003 to 2007 at $1.7M. We built our costs with the assumption that each frequent teleworker would share an office, but not a work station, with another teleworker. This assumption allows the cost model to be straight forward and reliable because it is simpler than a model using multiple types of worker space. Since frequent teleworkers can arrange their schedules to be in the office when their office mate is out, office sharing assures that each office has usually only one occupant per day.

Employee views on frequent telework are one factor in determining the ease in which a program can be successfully implemented. Staff and managers' attitudes are a critical component for success. If, for example, the program resulted in extremely poor morale or inefficient working conditions, it could negatively affect overall office performance, thereby devaluing or even negating the effectiveness of frequent telework. In addition, staff views provide vital information (such as opinions about supervising teleworkers) for planning and training that would take place prior to implementing frequent telework. As mentioned earlier, 57 percent of staff in the 4 offices we visited indicated through a survey, their interest in teleworking at least two days per week. This provides a general indication that staff are favorably inclined towards frequent telework.

Many managers, supervisors and staff in the offices we visited see substantial benefits for frequent telework that included increased ability to focus on certain tasks, improved quality of life, financial gains, increased productivity and reduced stress. However, many managers are also skeptical about staff and the office as a whole meeting the needs of customers and stakeholders in a frequent telework environment.

Some staff share those concerns and also have concerns regarding office space, collegiality, and management of a frequent telework program. Some staff in focus groups strongly identified with the concept of an individual office with themselves as the only occupant, regardless of how often the office would be occupied. The viewpoint was strongly expressed by several trial attorneys and administrative judges.

OIG concluded that escalating real estate costs for EEOC illustrate the importance of focusing on ways to more effectively manage its infrastructure. Further, much of the work of trial attorneys, administrative judges, investigators, and mediators is well suited for frequent telework. We found that many managers and supervisors believe that a significant number of staff may not produce as much work product or be able to provide services as effectively if they telework frequently. Staff, managers and supervisors share concerns for ensuring the EEOC conducts business efficiently, if greater telework is implemented. We concluded that with adequate telework training for all employees, reliable equipment, and attention to office layout, the success of a frequent telework program is probable, and enhanced productivity and morale is likely.

In addition, major cost savings can be achieved at each of the offices we visited, beginning in the second year of frequent telework. Major cumulative savings begin in the third year and savings are maximized through use of the Optimum Model. Due to the up front costs of frequent telework, and the financial advantages of beginning frequent telework near lease expiration, piloting at all district offices in the near term, would not be prudent. If savings estimated in the cost model could be applied at all EEOC district offices, savings would be substantial, and average about 10 percent of real estate costs for those offices, over a five year period. Finally, options for real estate savings through frequent telework may be possible for the Headquarters Building through subleasing parts of the building, bringing the Washington Field Office into the building, or buying out of the lease.

We recommended that executive management consider implementing a pilot frequent telework effort to achieve cost savings for the Dallas, Los Angeles, and Miami District Offices and Washington Field Office. In addition, we recommended Agency membership in one or more telework organizations such as the Mid Atlantic Telework Council and International Telework Council to gain access to telework experts and opportunities to network with other federal agencies engaged in telework efforts. This membership may also lead to heightened awareness of office culture barriers to successful implementation of frequent telework, and an increased appreciation of how teleworking may enhance EEOC's human capital goals. Both the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration, agencies with key telework knowledge, belong to the International Telework Council.

As for OIG's ongoing work in this area, currently we are studying EEOC headquarters to identify potential infrastructure cost savings and benefits of frequent telework on productivity, performance and customers service. To date, office directors and commissioners have been interviewed and a number of focus groups meetings have been conducted. Preliminarily, we have found that interest in a headquarters frequent telework program is high and that many staff perform activities well-suited for telework. A final report will be issued at the beginning of calender year 2004. Also, a six month OIG frequent telework pilot will begin this month implementing many key aspects of the telework model developed during our field study, thereby testing our assumptions and providing an opportunity to gain insights that may assist EEOC in assessing frequent telework.

The OIG study is available from the EEOC website. This concludes my remarks.

Thank you.

This page was last modified on September 8, 2003.

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