• United States



Contributing Writer


Mar 18, 20103 mins
Cisco SystemsData and Information Security

Washington DC snowstorms expose real problems with Federal teleworking policies and execution

While we in Boston had very little natural snow, Washington DC had a record year. Three storms dropped 32″ of snow on our nation’s capital. This led to a Federal government shutdown for 3 days — at a cost of an estimated $100 million per day.You’d think that the impact of this shutdown would be addressed somewhat by the Feds liberal teleworking policies. According to a 2009 report titled, “Status of Telework in the Federal Government, Report to Congress,” 78 agencies reported that nearly 9% of eligible workers reported as teleworkers in 2008. What’s more, 61% of agencies reported a net increase in the teleworker population as well.While these statistics look impressive, many reports from DC during the snowstorm indicated a different situation. It turns out that many federal workers were stuck at home without a teleworking option. Some workers report that their superiors discourage teleworking as a general rule, assuming that workers will not be productive if they work at home. There were also a lot of technical problems reported as well. In general, the snowstorm seemed to expose that the federal teleworking execution is little more than a paper tiger.So is teleworking a good or a bad thing? While the research varies, many studies point to productivity benefits from teleworking. The State of MD Department of Transportation reported a 27% productivity increase from teleworkers. Cisco Systems found similar results. In a study of 2000 teleworking employees, Cisco found that 69% reported higher productivity, 75% said that the timeliness of their work improved, and 80% reported that teleworking improved their quality of life. As a veteran IT person, I’m shocked by this news. The Feds talk a good teleworking game but if these anecdotes are true, they are talking the talk but not walking the walk. Heck, I even read a note from someone who works at the Dept. of Energy who claims that DOE — the agency that is supposed to help us break our dependence on foreign oil — is extremely tight on teleworking. This is certainly ironic but also pretty sad. Note to Federal CIO Vivek Kundra: If these stories are true, your biggest obstacle may be federal culture rather than technology. With record budget deficits, we need the Feds to save money anyway they can. Teleworking can and should be part of the solutions. If the teleworking situation is as bad as many workers report, we need to figure out the problems and pose a solution ASAP. With the technology options available today, we can’t let outdated attitudes or technology paranoia stifle productivity, employee quality-of-life, or green-friendly policies.

Contributing Writer

Jon Oltsik is a distinguished analyst, fellow, and the founder of the ESG’s cybersecurity service. With over 35 years of technology industry experience, Jon is widely recognized as an expert in all aspects of cybersecurity and is often called upon to help customers understand a CISO's perspective and strategies. Jon focuses on areas such as cyber-risk management, security operations, and all things related to CISOs.

More from this author