The Feds as Technology Leaders


You don’t often see the Federal government held up as a shining example of technological leadership, but that’s exactly the message presented in the 2007 CDW Telework Report. Among the highlights here:

  • The Federal Government leads the private sector in telework initiatives
  • Federal employees and IT professionals are more supportive of telework than their private-sector counterparts
  • Just 33 percent of private-sector employees state that they could continue to work via telework if their office was closed (compared to 75 percent of Federal employees)

While those may make for nice sound bites, it’s always worth reading statistical reports with a critical eye. For starters, look at numbers instead of percentages. There are about 140 million people in the civilian workforce, and about 3 million Federal employees. So that 33 percent of private-sector employees is around 45 million people, and the higher percentage of Federal workers who could telework is somewhere around 2 million people. Viewed in that fashion, the government doesn’t look like such a fabulous leader after all.

But there are some other numbers buried in the body of the report that I think are more interesting than those that CDW chose to highlight. One of the questions they asked (of both government and private respondents) was simply “How satisfied are you with your current job?” In both cases, those with the option to telework were much more likely to answer “very satisfied” than those without. That’s an interesting bit of ammunition if you’re trying to argue for the establishment of a teleworking policy in your own workplace.

There are also some significant differences between Federal and private-sector teleworkers. Federal teleworkers are more likely to have access to a Web-based application to do their work and less likely to use instant messaging than their private counterparts. And they’re much more likely to spend their day at home (90% of Federal employees surveyed telework from home, as opposed to 60% of private-sector employees). This reflects, I suspect, that the Federal teleworkers are more likely to be relocating an existing job than engaging in any sort of “digital Bedouin” lifestyle.

The bottom line? CDW urges that private employers introduce telework pilot programs and perform a cost/benefit analysis to see what they have to gain for teleworking, while bearing in mind the threats posed to business from things like potential pandemics. Bear in mind that they’re a Fortune 500 computer hardware reseller who would love to see this segment of their business increase, though. Still, if you’re looking for a cogent set of slides and statistics to use in promoting the benefits of telework to your own management, this report is a good starting point.



Almost all my neighbors are federal employees, or contractors on federal projects. Not one of the them can telecommute regularly. The general perception around the DC suburbs is that the Feds can and should do much more to encourage telecommuting within it’s own ranks.

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