Telework: The AT&T Experience.
by Dr. Braden Allenby -
Vice President, Environment, Health and Safety for AT&T
March 22, 2001
Thank you Chairman Davis and members of the subcommittee for
inviting testimony from AT&T on the topic of Telework. For
the past decade, AT&T's management has made a commitment
to the concept and made measurable gains in implementing a program
across various departments of the company. We appreciate the
opportunity to share the results of some of that experience
with you. AT&T started a pilot program in Los Angeles in
1989 and then in Phoenix in 1990 with a handful of employees
trialing the idea of working from home several days per month,
in part as a voluntary response to Title I of the 1990 Clean
Air Act. We were motivated by the results of our pilot to expand
the offer to more areas of the company. In 1992, AT&T introduced
its formal telework policy; the program developed almost on
its own from there. In other words, the benefits to the employee,
company and community drove telework forward, as opposed to
formal incentives and goals.
we find that over half of our managers (56%) telework at least
one day a month, over a quarter (27%) of our managers telework
one day or more per week, and 11% of our managers telework
100% of the time in a "Virtual Office". It was only
with the advent of the manufacturing economy of the Industrial
Revolution that workers began leaving their homes in droves
each day, assembling together for employment, then returning
home. Before the industrial revolution, the lines between
work and family and education and entertainment were blurry.
Everything blended just a little bit, because all activity
in an agrarian economy tended to occur around the homesite.
Then we drew clear, industrial age lines between everything,
and spent time, energy and natural resources moving ourselves
back and forth to keep work and family and education separate.
Now, as we move into the information age, it seems telework
is actually a return to a more organic way of balancing work
and family. Blurry lines aren't bad - that's a key learning
behind our telework participation. This leads us to an organic
view of employee eligibility. In our case (except for contractual
obligations with represented employees) we assume all employees
are eligible to telework until proven otherwise. We do not
start with a universe of jobs, and then segregate out the
teleworkable ones; we begin by assuming all jobs are teleworkable.
Nor do we identify different locations (e.g. telecenters vs.
homes) for different types of work. We believe that location
is irrelevant, given the right technology; the work comes
to the worker, no matter where she or he is.
this same pattern across society. Telework is a predominantly
informal or grass roots phenomenon. Two out of three teleworkers
in the U.S. are not part of a formal, scheduled, company program.
They simply work the arrangements out with their manager,
as needed when needed. On a general note, this is why we see
incentives for telework that require extensive documentation
(such as auditable, detailed records of daily location tracking)
as potential dis-incentives to participation by raising administrative
hurdles and costs for both the firm and the teleworker. Our
yearly, statistically valid telephone survey of AT&T employee
teleworkers allows us to drill deeply into the barriers and
benefits of telework and measure participation to much better
accuracy than a self-reported time system. In brief, a manufacturing
economy focuses on place (the factory) because that's where
productivity occurs; an information economy focuses on knowledge,
which is produced independent of place and time constraints.
places the actual telework participation decision (along with
many other tactical decisions such as specific equipment provided)
into the hands of the local manager and the proposed teleworker.
These two are in the best position to understand the unique
job and environment involved, and manage the culture change
involved with successful implementation of telework. They
fill out a 'teleworker's agreement' and there are no further
empowered, flexible approach allows an individual employee
to work at home as needed, when needed, to meet the competing
demands of work, family and society. What we have done is
work to eliminate the structural barriers to telework... programs
which require teleworker approval by Vice Presidents have
less participation than programs which require teleworker
approval by direct managers.
We have tools to help determine if a particular job or employee
is suited for telework, but they are short in length and very
broad in scope. There are examples published on our public
telework website (www.att.com/telework).
a "good" employee or manager in the office is a
good employee at home - a person's work ethic or results focus
(as examples) do not change when she or he changes her or
his desk. The key issue is really trust. If the manager trusts
the employee to be getting work done even when she or he can't
be seen, and if the employee trusts the manager to take her
or his needs into account even when they aren't right outside
the office door, then obviously there's a greater pool of
'eligible' teleworkers. If there's a lack of trust in either
of these dimensions, then the eligible pool shrinks accordingly.
Another factor which shrinks the eligibility for telework
is the digital divide between home and office. Our employee
research has shown that lack of broadband into the home is
the top barrier to increased participation.
of high speed access to the inter/intranet draws workers back
into the office for the sake of productivity, in this age
of larger and larger computer files and applications such
as video conferencing.
Challenges to the Telework Model
indicates that benefits actually increase, and challenges
decrease, as participation rises. Telework is an excellent
example of network economics - as the number of existing teleworkers
grows, each new teleworker receives more benefit than the
one before. Higher telework participation in a work group
increases individual teleworker productivity and job satisfaction,
which drives even higher participation, which increases the
benefit, and so on, in a self-reinforcing cycle. A good example:
Larger employers now lead in the adoption of telework, despite
a slower start compared to small- and medium-sized businesses.
first teleworker in a work group is an oddity, and has a difficult
time succeeding. When half the people in that work group are
working from home, the communication patterns change, and
telework is no longer an unusual event. When practically all
the people in that work group are virtual - as in my AT&T
Environment, Health and Safety organization - we really begin
to see rapid business improvement and higher performance.
The following AT&T-wide data are from the 2000 AT&T
employee teleworker survey:
1999 AT&T Telework Participation (1x/month or more)
56% 49% Percent
of AT&T teleworkers describing as "major problem"
Reduced visibility for the employee
15% 28% Loss of camaraderie or a sense of being part of the
15% 23% Isolation of the telecommuter
7% 13% Loneliness for the telecommuter
of the reason for AT&T's dramatic levels of telework is
our management approach. We believe that telework should not
be a separate and distinct area of the business. Instead,
telework should be integrated into the business... almost
every existing organization plays a role in terms of policies,
processes and procedures within the existing business functions.
For example, Real Estate takes telework into account when
designing space. Security takes remote work into account when
implementing new policies, processes and procedures. Information
Technology Services takes telework into account when they
build out our employee intranet. What this does is ensure
a sustainable management system for telework. Specific to
the managerial attitudinal dimensions of telework, I've already
spoken about our empowerment model and the trust that is needed
between the worker and the manager. What we've learned is
that many managers are already working with teams and individuals
who work elsewhere... perhaps on the other side of the globe,
or maybe only the next building over. In other words, in today's
environment, it is a basic expectation that managers are able
to manage beyond their line of sight. Managers and workers
who are sitting in an office working with managers and workers
sitting in other offices are ideal candidates for telework.
managerial attitude factor is performance management. How
successful managers will be in managing remote workers will
depend very much on how well they manage workers in a traditional
office environment. Organizations (and supervisors) that are
successful with "managing by objectives" and outputs
will have no problem making the transition. Those who manage
by "TAD" (Time At Desk) and by how "busy"
they perceive an employee is, will have a difficult time unless
they can begin to identify and implement performance measures
and success criteria. Measuring TAD is an anachronism from
manufacturing days - in a manufacturing plant, time spent
on the line is a reasonable correlate to productivity, but
it is dysfunctional in an economy where knowledge is the desired
product. But, of course, measuring TAD is easier, so a significant
barrier to telework is managers who for whatever reason refuse
to or cannot adopt more sophisticated performance measures.
is worth noting that these managers often perform poorly in
a knowledge economy in other ways as well.
old patterns which become embedded in culture are extremely
resistant to change, even when external indicators argue that
it is economically, socially, and environmentally preferable.
It's only when the documentation of productivity gains, real
estate savings and employee retention begin to differentiate
those companies who offer a more flexible workplace from an
earnings perspective that senior management will take notice.
In the interim, progressive managers and employees are making
their own telework policies.
part of this cultural change is the awareness and internal
marketing of telework. We continually 'sell' telework so as
to help create a culture in which telework is more than 'legal'
- telework provides business benefits and it ought to be part
of the everyday fabric of our work. Interestingly, on the
subject of knowledge transfer, we've seen decreasing demand
for teleworker training. In fact, our classroom training for
teleworkers and managers has been discontinued for lack of
demand. Although an important part of our program ten years
ago, before the rise of the knowledge economy, in this age
of the PC and the internet people seem to be more confident
in their ability to work from home. Once telework is established
as part of the culture, the formal processes such as training
are less critical.
challenge to telework, however, is the difficulty of getting
started. The first day working at home can be a difficult
day in terms of making all the different components - the
PC, the software, the network, and so on - work together.
Additionally, this first day at home must be preceded by the
manager / teleworker discussion, the review of appropriate
polices, and other foundational requirements. What we've done
at AT&T is establish an employee telework portal on our
intranet which provides links and information designed to
streamline the process of beginning to telework. The employee
has one-click access to all the different required content
and e-enabled processes from across the firmâ€¦
installing voice and data lines, or accessing the AT&T
Telework Policy, or reviewing the standard hardware configurations,
or downloading anti-viral software, or submitting an order
for cable modem.
seen quite an improvement in this particular area of our survey
results since building the intranet portal. Going forward,
existing labor and employment issues important to both employer
and employees that need to be resolved. These issues include
the application of telework to the Americans with Disabilities
Act, Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action, insurance and
liability requirements, OSHA compliance, application of workers
compensation laws, wage and hour laws, and tax issues. This
is not surprising: just as firms and managers are still optimized
to a manufacturing economy, so are our public institutions,
regulations, and laws.
Benefits to the Company
is often seen as an employee benefit, and it is. But there
are major business benefits as well. For example, we estimate
that we save about $25 million per year in real estate through
virtual office programs. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
indicate that teleworking enhances productivity, both because
teleworkers report being more productive per unit time, and
because the teleworker has available the previously non-productive
commute time. For example, when asked about perceived productive
work hours (when tasks are accomplished), office workers reported
6.2 productive hours in an 8 hour day, compared to the teleworker-reported
7.5 hours in an 8 hour day. Over three-quarters (77%) of all
teleworkers reported higher productivity at home while only
6% reported higher productivity in the office. Seven-in-ten
managers (72%) report beingmore productive when working from
5% of managers report higher productivity when working from
the office. We calculate that this increased productivity
of our teleworkers is worth about $100M per year.
and retention are other important benefits. Because of the
enhanced quality of life and personal freedom which teleworking
fosters, firms are better able to retain valued employees,
even when flattening hierarchies so that promotion opportunities
are more rare. Among the AT&T teleworkers who have been
offered other jobs, about two-thirds (67%) reported that giving
up an "AT&T telework environment" was a factor
in their decision to remain with the company. And, in the
competitive market for high tech employees, firms are finding
that it is the companies with more non-traditional work environments
that are the most successful in recruiting the knowledge worker.
one of the most surprising statistics developed by my team
is that virtual office managers are more likely to be rated
in the very highest performance management category - as measured
by the formal, managerial appraisal - than their office-bound
peers. Whether the additional productivity from working virtual
results in the higher rating, or whether the higher rating
results in increased desire and ability to work at home full-time,
is a 'chicken and the egg' question. The bottom line is that
these higher-rated managers are turning down job offers because
they are teleworking, resulting in direct business benefit
the benefits of telework to employees are well reported. Teleworkers
are more satisfied with both their jobs and their personal/family
lives. 77% of our employees who work from home reported much
greater satisfaction with their current career responsibilities
than before teleworking, while 84% said the same of their
Equally as interesting, not just the teleworker but their
families also report enhanced quality of life: 81% of AT&T
teleworkers reported their family members viewed the arrangements
as positive, while only 3% reported negative feelings from
other members of their households and 16% reported neutral
telework advantages, "balancing work and family life"
and "improved productivity" were most frequently
cited as major advantages.
advantages were cited by a majority of teleworkers:
84% Better balancing work and family life
80% Improved productivity
78% Showing the company cares about people
77% Helping the company keep and attract the best people
71% Gives employees more personal time by reducing their commuting
70% Making employees feel trusted
speaking, the most cited benefits of telework done from home
are the energy saved and concomitant reductions in carbon
dioxide emissions, hydrocarbons and in NOx emissions. Since
one gallon of gasoline produces 19 lbs. of carbon dioxide
(CO2), the 5.1 million gallons of gas our employee teleworkers
didn't use in 2000 (by avoiding 110 million miles of driving
by teleworking) equate to almost 50,000 tons of CO2. Similar
benefits result from reductions in NOx and hydrocarbons. Importantly,
given the demographics of employment for AT&T and similar
firms, these benefits tend to occur in or near major urban
areas where air quality is an issue, so reduced emissions
feed directly into better air quality - and less traffic congestion
- for everyone. Obviously, these are estimates based on reasonable
assumptions, but they provide an idea of the magnitude of
reductions in emissions which teleworking might support if
engaged in on a global scale.
environmental assessments of telework, however, focus only
on the direct effects, and fail to include the considerable
indirect effects. Teleworking is thus not just an emissions
reduction technology, but an energy efficiency technology
as well, contributing to more efficient traffic patterns generally:
less traffic congestion makes everyone more efficient.
to the extent telework reduces demands for additional infrastructure,
it also leads to less material use in construction, and less
land use impact.
results are difficult to quantify, but flow directly from
the major characteristic of telework: because it lowers traffic
congestion at peak periods, and infrastructure is designed
based on such peaks, increased telework translates directly
into decreased demand for infrastructure.
Program - Making Location Independent of Work
has had experience with almost every type of teleworking arrangement.
Our policy is generic and does not divide or structure telework
based on location. In fact, the whole point of the telework
policy is to make location - home, airport, telecenters, wherever
- independent of work. This allows alternate work arrangement
decisions to be made locally. For example, some of our sales
organizations have implemented hoteling arrangements, where
space is checked in and out as needed, freeing up real estate
and allowing consolidation. I would not doubt that some of
our 35,000 or so teleworkers are using telecenters, but the
home seems to be the most prevalent location for telework,
that's only our experience. In different organizational cultures,
with different technology infrastructures, telecenters might
find wide usage. One of the interesting facets to telework
governance is that the employee gains decision making power
over location (unless telework is mandated, which we do not
recommend). The implication is that telecenters will probably
rise and fall based on their ability to meet the needs of
individuals, rather than purchasing managers. There will always
be a need for socialization, and for face-to-face communication,
and telecenters might be able to supply an environment for
these interactions. Telecenters would also be a natural location
for technical PC and software support.
to Enable Telework
of the subcommittee, Congress can play a key role in accelerating
the deployment of Telework by considering certain legislative
initiatives including but not limited to legislation recently
introduced by Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia. H.R. 1012 would
"allow a credit against income tax for expenses paid
or incurred under a teleworking arrangement for furnishings
and electronic information equipment which are used to enable
an individual to Telework."
consideration should be given to enhancing the proposed legislation
to double the tax credit of each employee covered under the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA")
and for each employee of a small business. Building on Rep.
Wolf's initiative, we would suggest giving an employer an
annual Telework tax credit of $500 for each employee who teleworks
on a full-time basis, and a prorated amount for each employee
who teleworks on a part-time basis. For each employee who
is covered under the ADA, the maximum annual employer Telework
credit would increase to $1,000.
to numerous surveys, the primary obstacle that has prevented
broad participation in Telework arrangements is the lack of
remote employee access to broadband technologies. To overcome
this barrier, we would suggest additional legislation that
would offer companies tax incentives to invest in Broadband
telecommunications equipment. With legislation that would
allow a taxpayer to expense the cost of qualified broadband
telecommunication equipment, the supply side of the equation
would match the demand side being created by the telework
also like to direct your attention to legislation passed during
the 106th Congress which will promote Telework:
and Air Quality Act (HR2556, S1521): Rep Frank Wolf &
Sen. Rick Santorum bills that created a study of the feasibility
of providing employers with tradable pollution tax credits
for reducing exhaust emissions from cars by reducing Vehicle
Miles Traveled (VMT) through the use of telework programs.
Follow-up Legislation has passed Congress to move from the
study phase to carrying out a 2-year program to implement
such programs in 5 US cities - see HR4425/Public Law 106-246,
Sec.2603. Pilot program cities are Washington, D.C., Philadelphia,
Denver, Los Angeles and Houston.
Appropriations Bill (HR4475, S2720 - Law # 106-346): Rep.
Wolf & Sen. Richard Shelby's Bills direct, under Sec.
359, that each executive agency establish a policy in which
eligible employees may participate in telecommuting to the
maximum extent possible without diminished employee performance.
It requires the Director of the Office of Personnel Management
(OPM) to provide that such requirements are applied to 25
percent of the Federal workforce, and to an additional 25
percent of such workforce each year thereafter.
Federal legislation introduced which should be reconsidered
during the 107th Congress includes:
divide Access to Technology Act of 2000 (HR4274): Rep. Jerry
Weller's Bill to amend the IRS Code to provide that computers
provided to employees for personal use are a nontaxable fringe
benefit. This will prevent employees from having to pay tax
on the computer packages that their employers have provided
to them to increase their computer literacy/skills.
Business Telecommuting Act (HR3500): Rep. Mark Udall's Bill
to direct the SBA, from up to 5 of its Regional Offices to
conduct a pilot program "...to raise awareness about
telecommuting among small business employers and to encourage
such employers to offer telecommuting options to employees."
Telework Act of 2000 (S2447): Sen. Paul Wellstone's Bill to
provide assistance to individuals in rural communities to
establish National centers for Distance Working, to support
the use of teleworking in information technology fields.
Empowerment Act (HR3897, S2229): Sen. Barbara Mikulski &
Rep. Silvestre Reyes' Bill to establish a program for Community
Centers (CTCs) which would authorize computer centers in &
around public housing allowing for a tax deduction for corporate
donations of computer technology & equipment for educational
Congress may want to turn to the states and localities to
review innovative programs like the Metro Washington, D.C.
program that provides telework consultants to corporations
engaging in Telework initiatives. The San Francisco Bay Area
& Metro Washington, DC Council of Governments have "1-in-5-in-5"
and members of the subcommittee, I thank you for the opportunity
to share the AT&T story on telecommuting and offer our
company's resources to work with the committee in developing
programs that will allow more segments of the nation's workforce
to realize the benefits of an important tool of the New Economy.