Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006

HJR 144: Joint Subcommittee to Study Telework Opportunities for State and Private Sector Employees

September 14, 2006

The Joint Subcommittee studying telework opportunities in the Commonwealth held its second meeting on September 14, 2006, at the Center for Innovative Technology in Herndon. Guest speakers from state agencies and local governments were invited to the meeting to speak on the implementation of successful telework programs.

Implementation of Telework Programs

Catherine Chianese - Assistant to the Fairfax County Executive
Ms. Chianese discussed Fairfax County's 10 year-old telework program, which is now ingrained in county government and is no longer hindered with some of the cultural hurdles that newer telework programs face. This year, the county met the goal of having 20% of the eligible workforce telecommute, a goal set by the chairman of the board of supervisors in 2001. She noted that having this kind of goal and support from the highest level of government was very important in the success of the program. Fairfax County's success can be attributed to its reinvigoration of the telework program after the 2001 announcement by:

• Establishing a brand and a logo for its telework program.
• Developing training tracks tailored to management and workers.
• Allowing the telework program to operate in a decentralized manner, which permits each department to figure out how to adapt the program to meet their needs.

Diane O'Grady - Telework Program Manager for Loudoun County
Ms. O'Grady discussed Loudon County's experiences with telework. The county had previously established a program in 1996, but it was put on hold. Because the county faced a lack of space for its increasing workforce and growing traffic problems, the board of supervisors decided to reinvigorate the program in 2005. The county saw telework as a tool for work retention and wanted to build a model that private businesses could follow. The county's IT Department played an important role in the successful deployment of telework through:

• Incorporating new tools into the program.
• Revising work processes.
• Developing a standard telework tool kit for users.

Loudoun County has focused on the opportunities that telework provides for continuity of operations in the event of an emergency or disaster. The county encourages telework participants to work from home at least one day a month.

Dave Jordan - Assistant Tax Commissioner, Compliance Division
Mr. Jordan stated that the Department of Taxation (the Department) closed two of its nine district offices in 2000 and 49 workers from these offices began to telecommute full-time. In 2003, due to fiscal constraints, the other regional offices were also closed, bringing the total number of teleworkers to well over 200. He stated that in his experience, most teleworkers adjusted rapidly to the new policy, even in situations where there had been resistance. While it is more difficult to measure teleworking at home, productivity rises for most workers. Some employees do not work as well from home, and the Depart-ment did find the need to let go five of its employees. The Department has set a new goal transitioning 150 employees from its Richmond offices to begin teleworking. Currently, the Department is spread out among four different offices in Virginia, and it would like to be in one facility and eventu-ally be capable of hiring an applicant from anywhere in the Commonwealth for any job opening it may have. Mr. Jordan shared the following important lessons he felt the Department had learned in the course of implementing its telework program:

• A solid technology infrastructure is important.
• Employers need to listen to what employees say they need to do their job from home, in terms of equipment and support.
• Employers need to be prepared to confront low-performing employees with real data and numbers and be prepared to let them go if necessary.
• An involuntary telework plan is not problematic.
• Supporting teleworkers should be part of a manager's performance plan and evaluation.
• Anyone should be allowed to telework, and the opportunity should not be reserved for only the highest performing employees.

State Telework Initiatives

Secretary of Technology Aneesh P. Chopra
Secretary Chopra announced that the Department of Taxation has offered to act as the lead agency for state telework pilot program. He also described Executive Order 35 that announced the formation of the Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance in the executive branch. The new office is a collaborative, cross-secretariat effort to link supply of broadband with the need for increased telework, telemedicine, and teleeducation. The Governor announced a goal of having 20% of the eligible workforce at each state agency teleworking at least one day a week by 2010. The three underlying initiatives behind this effort are to reform government operations, alleviate traffic congestion, and to pursue eco-nomic development opportunities through telework.

Secretary of Administration Viola O. Baskerville
Secretary Baskerville shared the results of a telework survey that had just been received by the Department of Human Resource Management. The survey solicited state agency input regarding the number of employees telecommuting at each agency, the inclusion of telework in the continuity of operations plans, and perceived benefits of and barriers to telework. Of the survey results received before the meeting, representing approximately half of the state agencies, there were 2,067 positions designated eligible to telecommute and 1,469 employees were involved in a telecommut-ing program. Secretary Baskerville also provided a copy of a leadership memorandum distributed to all agencies about current telework requirements, as well as an overview of telework best practices compiled by IBM for the Commonwealth, which may be obtained free of charge.

Members asked for more information to be provided at the next meeting regarding what types of positions in the state were being designated as ineligible, and why there were not more eligible positions. The top perceived benefits of telework include commuter costs savings, increased employee satisfaction, and flexibility. Barriers include the cost of IT equipment and support, a diminished access to work resources, and the loss of a traditional office culture.

Work Plan

As soon as information is available regarding the next meeting of the joint subcommittee it will be posted on the internet on the General Assembly calendar on the study website sponsored by DLS.

The Hon. Timothy D. Hugo

For information, contact:
Lisa Wallmeyer, Patrick Cushing, and Amigo Wade, DLS Staff


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2006

Privacy Statement | Legislative Services | General Assembly