Telework is one of those great ideas that remind me of the wisecrack long leveled at Brazil: “Brazil is the county of the future — and always will be.” People have been touting telework for a couple of decades now as a way to reduce travel and ease traffic congestion, and no matter how few people change their habits, true believers say widespread adoption is right around the corner.
Of course, Brazil has finally achieved its due as one of the world’s leading economies — the world’s sixth largest. And the time finally may have arrived when new technology makes telework, or tele-conferencing, a meaningful alternative to travel.
A new study conducted by the Telework Exchange, a public-private partnership focused on demonstrating the value of telework, contends that if half of all federal workers used video conferencing, achieving three and a half hours a week each in productivity gains, they could save $8 billion annually. Other benefits include $5 billion saved through reduced travel, as well as the ability to meet tighter project timelines, generate a smaller carbon footprint and improve work-life balance.
However, significant barriers remain, according to, “Fly Me to Your Room: Government Video Conferencing Collaboration Report.” Three quarters of those surveyed said that their respective agencies were not utilizing video conferencing as much as they could. Cited as problems were the lack of video conferencing tools, bandwidth limitations, organizational cultural barriers, lack of awareness, incompatible video conferencing platforms and insufficient managerial buy-in.
Bacon’s bottom line: Video-conference technology is advancing year by year and people are getting acclimated to video chatting on their personal phones, tablets and PCs. President Obama issued an executive order last year to encourage the use of video conferencing in the federal government as a way to hold down travel costs. Governor Bob McDonnell should do something similar. Video conferencing would create a two-fer for Virginia: (1) It would reduce state government travel expenditures, and (2) it would take cars off the road… roads that the state pays to maintain. Let’s do it!