Washington, D.C.—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, released a report they requested from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that telework results in significant cost savings and reduced carbon dioxide emissions across federal agencies.  For example:

  • The General Services Administration reported “cost savings of $926,872 in 2015 based on telework-related reduced use of transit subsidies in comparison with 2013” and “identified  telework as a contributing factor to its headquarters renovation which resulted in a 40 percent reduction in office space and $24.6 million in annual rent savings.”
  • The Environmental Protection Agency “reported avoiding 10,791 telework-related metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2014 as compared to 2011.”
  • In 2013, the Election Assistance Commission “reported yearly rental savings of $750,000.”
  • A survey of managers and employees at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation suggested that “telework contributed to retaining employees, work/life balance, and increased productivity.”

In response, Ranking Member Cummings stated:  I am encouraged by agencies’ progress in expanding telework to more employees and reducing the barriers to telework.  This report confirms that significant benefits and cost savings can be achieved through the use of telework.  It is critical that the Office of Personnel Management take steps to ensure that all agencies provide cost savings estimates and supporting data going forward so we can understand the full value of telework.”

“The Department of Transportation, the Defense Information Systems Agency, and other federal agencies successfully adopted programs that demonstrate telework is a valuable tool for enhancing agency productivity, improving employee retention rates, and lowering taxpayer costs. Implementation of GAO’s recommendations will enhance telework policies across the federal government, result in significant cost savings, and help further agency missions on behalf of the American public,” said Congressman Stephen F. Lynch.

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 set forth a framework for agencies to use in establishing and implementing telework.  It required the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to assist agencies in establishing goals and report annually to Congress on agency progress, including an assessment of the impact of telework on emergency readiness, energy use, recruitment and retention, performance, and productivity. 

Cummings and Lynch requested this report in December 2014 to evaluate the progress and return on investment for agencies in implementing telework.

GAO reported that telework “reduced employee absences, improved work/life balance, improved recruitment and retention, maintaining continuity of operations (COOP) during designated emergencies or inclement weather, reduced commuting costs/transit subsidies, increased productivity, reduced real estate costs, reduced utilities, and positive environmental impacts, such as reduced greenhouse emissions.”

GAO found that “from 2011 to 2012, the number of employees eligible for telework increased from 684,589 to 1,020,034 (an increase of about 49 percent), and the number of employees that had telework agreements increased from 144,851 to 267,227 (an 84 percent increase).”

GAO found that  “government-wide, agencies identified fewer barriers to telework participation in 2013 than 2011. ... However, management resistance remains the most frequently reported barrier to telework.”

GAO made two recommendations:   (1) OPM should include costs savings questions in future calls to agencies for telework data to ensure that agencies report cost savings associated with their telework programs; and (2) OPM should provide clarifying guidance to agencies on options for developing supporting data for benefits and costs of telework programs to help agencies determine the value of such programs.  OPM concurred with both recommendations.

Click here to read the GAO report.