Telepresence Brings Effective Teleworking to Life for Federal Agencies

Nov 28, 2012

After President Obama passed the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, many agencies have been preparing for a new horizon where government employees will be able to achieve more flexibility and productivity through telecommuting.

Some of the key advantages of teleworking is the strengthening of COOP (Continuity of Operations), which greatly reduces infrastructure cost and improves the work-life balance of employees.

A few years ago the General Services Administration (GSA) made teleworking a part of its efforts to enhance employee productivity by implementing policies to support remote workers. This was a significant step because it led the way for other federal agencies to realize the true benefits of telework.  And, the reality is that today’s workforce expects this level of flexibility.

In addition, by enabling teleworkers to be productive through collaboration technologies such as telepresence, agencies will provide the best of both worlds:  reduced commutes and the same level of relationships and interactions with colleagues and managers.  Telepresence also helps in building trust, increasing efficiency and reducing overall “meeting fatigue,” which is very common in many office settings.

Studies also show that employees are more drained after an audio conference than participating in a face-to-face meeting of the same length.  Instead, by hosting a videoconference, the duration of a meeting can be shortened tremendously, as everybody is focused and paying more attention.

For example, one of the largest healthcare agency’s use of telepresence has tremendously lowered travel costs while still enabling interactive mentoring sessions with lead scientists and students. Several lead researchers from around the globe convene via videoconference to work out detailed problems in a few minutes versus the extensive time it can take to travel. Through video collaboration they are able to share best practices and advance the mission of finding proactive cures for public health issues.

In addition, telepresence has drastically improved a cancer patient’s healthcare experience at Moffitt Cancer Center.  Patients and healthcare providers no longer waste time and resources on travel and are even more productive in their collaborations.  Rather than expensive repeated travel (up to 4 hours), patients can simply watch orientation videos from home. They also have an option to travel to the nearest clinic for an in-person meeting with high definition telepresence capabilities, rather than making trips to meet their doctor when an in-person examination was not necessary. Telepresence also maximizes the time physicians would spend on a patient’s care as opposed to travelling to conduct rounds in different hospitals.

Currently, many agencies are facing challenges in determining the right technology protocols to bring telepresence to life. We are already in the post-PC era where tablets and mobile devices have become commonplace.  And, employees are continuously demanding to use the device of their choice at all times.  Of course, agencies have to weigh employee ease and comfort against potential security risks, which reinforces that the entire BYOD initiative requires careful planning and consideration.

The good news is that many new solutions bridge privacy demands and state-of-art communication, such as mobile telepresence. There are multiple technologies and products that support all video applications, while also supporting data encryption and access controls that protect against security breaches on lost or stolen devices.

Fortunately, telepresence is available today on any device, be it desktop, tablet, mobile phone or just a browser so that agencies can fully empower a workforce that is more productive and happy through telecommuting.