The explanation appears in a January 2008 white paper prepared by a group of state employees, the Statewide Work Anywhere Team (SWAT). The paper notes use of information technology “is uniquely positioned to further the state’s ‘Green initiatives’ by contributing solutions for larger issues facing California: traffic congestion, dependence on oil, air pollution, and quality of life to name a few. It is possible to perform work from virtually anywhere. We can do business better. Work Anywhere provides one viable option that we should fully explore.” It adds, “[w]orking from anywhere and using virtual teams are integral to the success of today’s workforce” and recommends “the State of California initiate a statewide standard for expanding the concept into its work environment.”
So why hasn’t the state more widely adopted telework four years after the paper was issued? Despite the bulk of the work being white collar, information and knowledge work, a blue collar shop floor management by observation culture dominates. The paper explains:
Many program area managers and executives are hesitant to implement Work Anywhere strategies/policies due to concerns regarding monitoring staff productivity and the staff’s ability to perform their duties effectively from a remote site (usually their home) without immediate access to other workers. Additionally, there is concern on monitoring staff that under-perform. The main challenges mentioned by all contacted in the study were the importance of determining the types of duties that are easily measurable and candidate selection requirements for performing tasks that could be part of a Work Anywhere plan. The most often stated concern was how to quickly manage employees that are out of sight. Some of the examples of telecommuting floundered because they lacked executive sponsorship, clear performance measurements or procedures for implementation of the policies. Additionally, some of the managers indicated an interest in receiving additional training for developing skills to better manage employees who work away from the main office.
That remains the case today. In September 2011, the then head of the Telework Advisory Group of California’s Department of General Services, Geoff McLennan, reported only about five percent out of a state workforce of about 240,000 telework. More recent data would put the number even lower. As older state workers retire in large numbers and as the economy slowly recovers, younger workers accustomed to being connected to the Internet from anywhere aren’t likely going to find state employment and its pre-Internet, 1980s office culture an attractive option.