AT&T Employee Telework Initiative
The AT&T Employee Telework Initiative provides information and support to all staff and management, corporate-wide, who would like to telework either part-time or full-time. Since 1992, AT&T has succeeded in developing not only a formal policy and telework program for its employees, but also a telework internet portal that acts as a model and guide for other companies interested in telework. AT&T believes that its telework initiative can be replicated by practically any company.
Note: To minimize site maintenance costs, all case studies on this site are written in the past tense, even if they are ongoing as is the case with this particular program.
Created in 1992, the AT&T Employee Telework Initiative followed closely on the heels of the implementation of the Clean Air Act in the United States. Although AT&T had conducted a few telework pilot projects during the late 1980s, it was really the Clean Air Act which helped to legitimize the concept of telework.
Telework is an umbrella term for a wide range of alternative workplace arrangements including telecommuting, virtual/mobile offices, hoteling, satellite offices and telework centres.
The corporate culture of AT&T was considered a good fit with telework. As a telephone company, many employees were used to working over the phone long before 1992, and with the arrival of personal computers, it became that much easier to work with colleagues in other locations, both near and far. Through the leading efforts of a champion from its Public Relations department, AT&T developed a cross-functional team which then designed and implemented the formal telework program and policies.
To increase, year over year, the total number of AT&T staff and management who telework.
Compliance with the U.S. Clean Air Act (implemented in 1992).
It was also hoped that the telework initiative could:
- Help employees balance their work and family life; and
- Provide low-risk solutions for employers that would be appreciated by the employees.
Beginning in 1994, AT&T conducted annual statistically valid random telephone telework participant surveys.
Delivering the Program
AT&T's Employee Telework Initiative was a corporate-wide program, managed cross-functionally, and intended for all staff and management to participate in. Although Human Resources "owned" the formal telework policy, Property Management oversaw the day-to-day operation of the telework program, while Security, Procurement, Environment, Health & Safety, and Information Technology Services played large, supporting roles.
AT&T took a relatively "grassroots" approach to its telework initiative in that it actively encouraged its employees to contact their local managers and ask whether or not they could try teleworking. Although there was obviously substantial "top-down" support for telework as well, AT&T recognized that for telework to be a successful business model, the employees had to feel that they were an important part of the success of the initiative. In other words, the employees had to feel a sense of "ownership" over the program.
At AT&T, no single manager or department ran the telework initiative; it was very much a networking" effort. Different departments operated different aspects of the program. For example, before an employee could begin teleworking, he or she would have had to have contacted:
- Procurement (for perhaps home office supplies or a computer);
- Security (to ensure that AT&T privacy issues were going to be respected); and
- Environment, Health & Safety (to make certain that the home environment was both safe and healthy for teleworking).
In order to simplify this initial set-up process, AT&T developed a website "portal" to act as a guide for potential participants in how to set themselves up as a teleworker (Overcoming Specific Barriers). For example, some of this information included how to procure a computer and telephone lines, as well as sample telework policies and agreements. The standard teleworking agreement served as a written commitment (Obtaining a Commitment).
AT&T's website portal succeeded in not only simplifying a somewhat complicated process, but it also helped to empower employees at the local level to take up the corporate challenge to try teleworking.
Initial barriers to the employee telework initiative did arise, and these were mostly associated with the overall cost and effort that needed to be invested by AT&T's initial policy development team. AT&T managed to overcome these barriers primarily because the team participants were supportive of the concept, and so they were determined to work towards building consensus so that the initiative could go forward.
Over the years, AT&T employed a number of tools to promote its Employee Telework Initiative. In addditon to internal and external communication packages based on survey results, it also participated in the annual "Telework America Day" (a public-private effort to encourage the adoption and growth of telework arrangements through a nationwide campaign of public awareness and education) (Norm Appeals).
Every year on this day, AT&T used such communication tools as email, all-employee publications, and information booths to educate employees about the benefits of teleworking, such as increased productivity, increased job satisfaction, and decreased commuting time (Building Motivation Over Time).
As the Employee Telework Initiative evolved, AT&T focused upon removing barriers to telework such as improving telecommunications technology available to teleworkers. Furthermore, as employees and their local managers became more comfortable with the idea of teleworking, the insistence on formal work schedules began to decrease, and teleworkers gained much more flexibility regarding when they could work in the office and when they could work remotely (Overcoming Specific Barriers).
Financing the Program
Given the highly localized nature of the initiative (local managers were encouraged to assist employees interested in teleworking), no single corporate-wide budget existed for telework. (It was suggested that it probably cost approximately $500 US to set up one employee for teleworking from home, not including a laptop computer and desk). However, there were some specific costs of the program because each year, AT&T conducted its employee telework survey and AT&T also produced several communication packages on its teleworking initiative for employees and other interested parties.
A few years prior to the development of its formal telework initiative around 1992, AT&T conducted a few, localized telework pilot projects in three regional offices. The lessons learned from these self-contained, pilot projects helped to inform the design of a corporate, cross-functional team and consequently, the formal telework initiative which it developed.
Beginning in 1994, AT&T conducted annual telephone surveys (randomly sampled with a good representation of company employees). From the collected survey results, AT&T compared the overall changes, year over year, in the various aspects of telework (e.g., frequency of telework, overall employee satisfaction, time spent commuting, amount of fuel and energy saved, work productivity).
AT&T provided feedback on its telework initiative to both active and potential participants through internal communication packages containing data collected from the annual surveys, and special, public relation events such as "Telework America Day".
In 1999, AT&T teleworkers avoided 87 million miles of driving to the office, and as a result, teleworkers saved:
- 4.1 million gallons of gasoline;
- 41,000 tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) from being emitted;
- 180,000 tons of hydrocarbons from being emitted;
- 1.4 million tons of CO (carbon monoxide) from being emitted; and
- 93,000 tons of NO (nitrogen oxides) from being emitted.
In 2000, AT&T teleworkers avoided 110 million miles of driving to the office, and similar to 1999, teleworkers saved:
- 5.1 million gallons of gasoline;
- 50,000 tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) from being emitted;
- 220,000 tons of hydrocarbons from being emitted;
- 1.7 million tons of CO (carbon monoxide) from being emitted; and
- 110,000 tons of NO (nitrogen oxides) from being emitted.
Telework Survey Results
|AT&T teleworkers who telework at least one day per month
|Teleworkers who work from home once a week or more
|Virtual office (or full-time) teleworkers
|Teleworkers that work from home on an unscheduled basis
|Teleworkers that work from home on a scheduled basis
|Teleworkers who reported higher productivity at home
- On average, $3,000 per teleworker is saved in real estate and related costs (e.g., energy);
- Productivity of teleworking employees has increased from 15 to 20%, and the increases seem to be related to enhanced morale, fewer meetings and fewer interruptions;
- Reduced employee stress and improved morale;
- Since the program began, telework has grown to include 55% (or 36,000) of AT&T staff;
- 87% of management telework an average of six days a month
For more information on the world of teleworking, please visit the following sites:
AT&T Telework Webguide: www.att.com/telework
International Telework Association and Council: www.telecommute.org
Gil Gordon Associates (Telework Consultants): http://www.gilgordon.com/
This case study was written by Sheryl C. Lusk.
Funding for the addition of this case study was generously provided by the Government of Canadas Climate Change Action Fund, Suncor, Syncrude, Enbridge Consumers Gas and TetraPak Canada.
AT&T suggested that any company interested in implementing a telework program should, first and foremost, establish a website portal of relevant information.
There are several large Canadian companies and institutions that have already implemented successful teleworking initiatives (e.g. Nortel, Bell Canada, Federal Government).
Different Modes of Telework:
||Working from home one or more days a week during normal business hours.
||Using communications tools and technology to perform job duties from anywhere, not just the home customer location, airport, hotel, etc.
||Sharing office space in a company location designed for use on a drop-in basis by employees. Employees either reserve space in advance or drop-in to use a cubicle equipped with standard office technology -- phones, PCs, faxes, printers, copiers, e-mail, Internet access, etc. -- on an as-needed basis.
||A fully-equipped office location established by the company, normally in suburban locations, where employees can reserve space and work one or more days a week closer to their homes. Satellite offices reduce employee commute times and help ease community traffic congestion.
||Similar to a satellite office, but space is shared by employees from numerous public and private employers. Normally operated independently, employers are charged for the space and services utilized by each employee per day. These centres are located closer to employees' homes than their regular company locations.
News Release TUESDAY, AUGUST 6, 2002 AT&T Telework Survey Indicates Productivity is Up; Technology Barriers Force Some Teleworkers to Return to the Office
BASKING RIDGE, N.J. -- Telework productivity at AT&T has increased roughly 10 percent in the past year, with employees typically gaining a full hour a day, according to AT&T's eighth annual telework survey of 1,500 employees.
However, the top barrier to telework continues to be a lack of high-speed data access to the home.
Over the last four years, about half of AT&T managers have worked from home at least once a month, about one-quarter at least once a week, and about 10 percent in a full-time "virtual office." About 70 percent of those surveyed cited increased productivity due to teleworking.
This increased productivity is valued at $65 million annually. When real estate and job retention savings are included, AT&T saves more than $100 million every year due to telework.
"Telework is a growing trend that's providing real value to AT&T," said Braden Allenby, Environment, Health & Safety vice president. "This year alone, we have several large units within the company that are moving to a full-time virtual office structure. Telework also has benefits to the environment. In 2001, AT&T teleworkers avoided driving 100 million miles, saving 5 million gallons of gasoline and preventing many thousands of tons of air pollutants."
However, the number of employees who work from home occasionally (less than one day a week) is shrinking because of lost productivity. Thirty six percent of those who stopped teleworking in the last year said they were less productive at home because of a lack of technology.
In fact, five of the top six reasons cited by office employees for not working from home relate to the need for speed. Typically, a teleworker who has a company-paid data line works twice as many days at home per month as one who doesn't. And those who have a high-speed, company-paid connection reported gaining about one additional productive work hour each day spent working from home.
As a result, hundreds of employees are moving out of traditional offices and working primarily or exclusively from their home offices.
Other benefits of telework include the ability to still conduct business in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. The survey also found that:
82 percent of teleworkers said that balancing work and family responsibilities was a significant advantage of telework; About 70 percent of teleworkers are more satisfied with their current job and their personal and family lives; and 56 percent of teleworkers who received competing job offers said that they factored telework into their decision to accept or reject the offer.
The full text of the 2001/2002 AT&T employee telework survey is available at AT&T's telework webguide.