Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA-11th), the featured speaker at the 2009 Telework Exchange Tele-Vision Awards Ceremony on June 2, would like to see the United States set a national goal to have 20 percent of its public- and private-sector workforce teleworking on a regular basis. By achieving this goal, the U.S. would eliminate approximately 40 percent of the foreign oil currently imported into the nation and significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.
"The beauty of telework is that it will not require billions of dollars of new investment to implement, and that is a refreshing change these days," Connolly said.
Long before he was elected to Congress in 2008, Connolly was committed to expanding telework programs. As chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Connolly challenged all local governments in the region to have 20 percent of their workforce teleworking at least once a week. Fairfax County, where Connolly served on the Board of Supervisors for 14 years, including five as chairman, was the first local government to meet that goal. In addition, in his role as the former vice president of community relations for SAIC, a government contractor with 45,000 employees worldwide, he noted that entire departments, such as corporate travel, are virtual operations that are recognized for their efficiency and service.
In his remarks, Connolly thanked representatives of the 2009 Tele-Vision Award-winning programs, including the U.S. Navy, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, the U.S. General Services Administration, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the Defense Information Systems Agency, and promised his ongoing support. "You can count on me as a freshman Congressman to be a passionate ally" on expanding and improving telework for government agencies and all organizations in the future.
He pointed out that all of the Tele-Vision Award winners implemented similar program elements to ensure successful and sustainable telework initiatives, including:
- A champion in the organizational leadership
- A facilitator to help managers implement the program
- Clear expectations for teleworkers and supervisors
- Consistent guidelines and practices
Connolly noted that the National Capital Region is particularly well-suited to expand telework programs. However, he said that although many private-sector employers have made progress in recent years growing their telework programs, there is "still a lot of work to be done in the Federal government."
Not only do flexible work programs offer improved work/life balance, they also serve to reduce vehicle emissions, the single largest source of air pollution in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, Connolly said. Collectively, he stated, "we can improve our quality of life by making telework work."
To illustrate what the roadways would be like if more organizations encouraged and embraced telework, he cited the month of August in the Washington D.C. area. Most drivers are surprised at how enjoyable commuting can be at that time, when many employees and their families are on vacation and traffic congestion is relatively light. By expanding telework programs across government agencies, the more than four million commuters in the area could have an August-like experience every day, with "fewer people using the trains, buses, and roads."
Connolly also noted that telework can play a critical role in business continuity for the public- and private-sectors during an emergency. Networking remote employees now to conduct business on a regular basis will help ensure smooth operation during an emergency, he added.
Connolly closed his remarks with praise for John Berry, the new director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, who, he says "recognizes that telework is an important tool to attract and retain the next generation of Federal workers." This, he added, is especially critical in light of the fact that nearly half of the current Federal workforce is approaching retirement and new workers expect telework to be available to them in their Federal service careers.