Jennifer Rankin Byrne
(571) 272-8400 or
Washington - Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Margaret J.A. Peterlin testified today before the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing entitled "Telework: Breaking New Ground." The USPTO has long been recognized as a pioneer in the area of telework for its innovative and flexible programs.
"The USPTO has demonstrated that telework is a business strategy that benefits our employees, our agency and the American economy. Our experience shows telework programs result in greater employee productivity, higher levels of sustained performance, reduced traffic congestion and air pollution, and reduced real estate costs," Deputy Under Secretary Peterlin explained. "Our motivated, high-performing employees have shown they can perform their responsibilities regardless of physical location."
Deputy Under Secretary Peterlin shared that, as a performance-based organization, the USPTO communicates expectations and manages by results-requisites for any functional telework environment. Her testimony also included lessons learned over the course of the decade since USPTO began its telework programs and insights on the many benefits telework offers the agency and its employees.
At the close of the 2007 fiscal year:
- There were 3,609 USPTO employees participating in some form of telework, a roughly 59 percent increase over FY 2006. This number equals 40.7 percent of USPTO's total workforce and 45.7 percent of total eligible employees.
- USPTO employees who telework collectively save more than 613,000 gallons of gas per year and save more than $1.8 million annually in fuel costs. Additionally, there is a combined reduction in emissions of more than 9,600 tons per year.*
- The USPTO has 17 formalized telework initiatives and three pilot programs in process, designed to serve the specific needs of seven different business units. Participants in these programs telework from one day a week to four days a week.
- The USPTO has a full-time telework coordinator on staff, and a dedicated intranet website to provide information on telework opportunities to employees. Of particular note are the successes of the USPTO's two largest telework programs, the Trademark Work-at-Home Program and the Patent Hoteling Program.
Trademark Work-at-Home Program
The Trademark Work-at-Home (TWAH) program began in 1997 as a two-year pilot program with 18 examining attorneys working from home three days a week. Today, the TWAH program is a leading, comprehensive program involving more than 240 employees (86 percent of the eligible examining attorneys) who spend the majority of their work week at home and come to the office one day a week, sharing space they reserve online before they come in.
TWAH has been honored with a number of awards, most recently including the 2007 Telework Driver Award from the Telework Exchange, the 2007 Work-Life Innovative Excellence Award from the Alliance for Work-Life Progress, and the 2006 Telework Program with Maximum Impact on Government Award from the Telework Exchange.
Patent Hoteling Program
Following the success of the Trademark Work-at-Home program, the USPTO expanded its telework initiative to include patent examiners. In 2006 a group of approximately 500 patent examiners participated in the Patent Hoteling Program (PHP). Similar to the Trademark program, the PHP is a flexible telecommuting program that provides participants the ability to access all relevant USPTO patent business systems, job performance tools, patent information and patent application documentation as efficiently at their remote worksite as on USPTO's Alexandria campus.
Today, more than 1,000 patent examiners participate in PHP. Earlier this year, PHP received the Excellence in Telework Leadership Award from the Telework Exchange, an honor specifically designated specifically for programs initiated within the last 12 months. Over the next several years, the USPTO expects to hire 1,200 new patent examiners a year, and by the end of FY 2011, it is expected that 3,000 patent examiners will be teleworking.
The Future: A USPTO National Workforce
In her testimony, Deputy Under Secretary Peterlin shared the agency's goal of achieving a national workforce model where some employees work full-time at headquarters, some telecommute one day a week, some hotel, and some live outside of the metropolitan area and rarely come to headquarters. By expanding the concept of an "office" in this way, the USPTO will leverage current technological capabilities to best serve its employees and the American public. This strategy will also allow the agency to hire the best and brightest employees from outside the Mid-Atlantic region, retain employees in a competitive market and minimize real estate costs associated with workforce expansion.
*Estimates provided by the Telework Exchange