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Trademark Work-at-Home


The Trademark Work-at-Home program has been restructured to better support Office goals.

Background Information:

The Trademark Work-at-Home program began as a pilot in March of 1997.  It has since expanded to approximately 110 examining attorneys.  Each examining attorney in the original program worked at home three days per week and shared an office at the official work site with another work at home attorney.  In November of 2001, a hoteling pilot was initiated where 21 of the Work-at-Home participants spent 90 per cent of their workweek at home and four hours per week at the official work site.  Hoteling participants are not assigned a personal office, but they may reserve an office to use when they come in to the official work site.  There were five offices reserved for the use of the 21 attorneys in the pilot.  The pilot proved to be successful in that productivity among hotelers was at high levels compared with non-hotelers, while quality and customer service levels were maintained.  As a result, the hoteling concept has been expanded to all 110 Trademark Work-at-Home participants.  Instead of telecommuting 24 hours per week, hotelers are now able to telecommute as many as 38 hours per week.

Organizations and agencies outside the USPTO have recognized the Trademark Work-at-Home program for its promotion of telecommuting and its innovative use of technology.  The Metropolitan Washington Council of Government awarded the program the 2001 Telework Award; and the International Telework Association & Council awarded the USPTO the 2001 Government Agency Excellence in Telework Award for the development and implementation of Trademark Work-at-Home program.

Meeting Congressional Mandates:  The Trademark Work-at-Home program helps the agency satisfy Public Law 106-346.  That law requires each executive agency to establish a policy under which eligible employees of the agency may participate in telecommuting to the maximum extent possible without diminished employee performance.  No later than six months after the date of the enactment of the Act, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management must provide that the requirements of this section are applied to 25 percent of the Federal workforce, and to an additional 25 percent of such workforce each year thereafter.  The Act demonstrates Congressional commitment to telecommuting as a response to increased traffic congestion and environmental concerns.

Business Results:  Our experience over the last five years has proven our Trademark Work-at-Home program to be beneficial to meeting Office goals.  Work-at-Home participants have contributed to lower pendency numbers because they are more productive and spend more time examining trademark applications than examining attorneys in the office.  Comparisons between the two groups have shown an average of 10 percent higher productivity among examining attorneys in the Trademark Work-at-Home program. The quality of work has been as good if not better than the general work force and their customer service has been excellent.  Customer satisfaction has remained high; the Work-at-Home program is generally transparent to the customer.

Employee Satisfaction:  Surveys and focus groups have indicated improved employee satisfaction for Work-at-Home participants.  Participants report a better ability to balance work and family issues because of the time saved commuting.  They also enjoy personal cost savings for work related commuting expenses.

Employee Retention:  Work-at-Home participants have a higher retention rate than other employees.  For each employee retained, the organization saves the expense of hiring and training a new employee.  There are a number of highly experienced employees who would have left the USPTO were it not for their ability totelecommute.  Participants report that they would have considered leaving the USPTO because of family concerns, spouses leaving the area for other jobs, or simply, need for a change in work environment; however, because of the ability to telecommute, these highly experienced employees decided to remain with the USPTO.

Office Space:  While the Trademark Work-at-Home program as initially conceived saved some office space by doubling employees, the new hoteling program has proven the potential for enormous space savings resulting in large cost reductions related to the rental of office space.  As a result of the conversion to hoteling for its 110 telecommuters, Trademarks has been able to consolidate its attorney work force into the South Tower building, vacating three floors in the North Tower.  The savings in office space totals 46,800 square feet, which is approximately $1.5 million in rent per year.

Technology:  The Trademark operation is well on its way to doing business in a paperless environment.  All examination functions including search and research databases, manuals, etc. are accessible on line to examining attorneys.  In addition, initial examination may be done completely electronically.  Complete electronic file wrappers and examination should occur by November 2, 2003.  Obviously the Trademark Work-at-Home participant’s success and efficiency is totally dependent on computer systems and technical support. 

USPTO Recommended Course of Action:

The Agency should proceed with development improvements to the Trademark Work-at-Home, “hotel” model where employees work at home at least 90 percent of their workweek..  If the USPTO is going to take full advantage of this model, the Agency will need to adjust priorities to fully incorporate remote workplace concepts into its operations.  To be fully successful, the Work-at-Home program must become as much of a second nature to the Agency as electronic searching and other successful electronic tools.  Preparing to incorporate Work-at-Home structures into the fabric of the Agency’s concept of “workplace” are of the utmost importance as we move into the 21st Century and attempt to develop concepts related to creating a flexible workforce and work processes. 

A robust Work-at-Home program would allow the Agency to retain employees regardless of where they live and has a strong potential to assist in the recruiting and retention of employees who find alternatives to a traditional office environment attractive.

Action Taken:

In January 2003, the USPTO and NTEU 245 signed a partnership agreement to expand the Trademark Work-at-Home program by incorporating the concept of “hoteling” for all examiners who telecommute.  Under the hoteling program, trademark-examining attorneys have increased the amount of time telecommuting from home each workweek, significantly reducing the time spent in the Office.  Examiners will come into the Crystal City office for as little as two hours per week, and will reserve time in designated shared “hotel” offices.  As a result, the number of offices needed in Crystal City is greatly reduced for examiners who telecommute.  This will allow the Trademark Organization to realize substantial savings by reducing office space through the consolidation of Law Offices presently in the North Tower to the South Tower Building.  Space consolidation was completed in March 2003.
Implementation Schedule
Work Breakdown StructureTask NameStartFinishProject Lead
28Work at Home 1: T-09 - Trademark Work at Home10/02/0103/31/03D. Cohn
28.1Define requirements for expanding program - "hoteling" (T-09)10/02/0111/26/01 
28.2Pilot "hoteling" concept - evaluate results (T-09)12/21/0109/30/02 
28.3Establish Service Level Agreement with CIO (T-09)08/30/0210/31/02 
28.4Improve/resolve system infrastructure/performance and reliability (T-09)08/30/0210/01/02 
28.5Improve HELP desk support - CIO (T-09)08/30/0210/01/02 
28.6Establish new guidelines for work arrangements (T-09)04/01/0210/31/02 
28.7Address Labor Relations Implications (T-09)11/01/0212/31/02 
28.8Determine office moves (T-09)01/02/0301/31/03 
28.9Transfer all work at home employees to hoteling program (T-09)01/02/0303/31/03 
28.10Space consolidation - consolidate NT employees in ST - vacate NTB space (T-09)02/03/0303/31/03 
KEY: e Biz=online business system fees=fees forms=formshelp=help laws and regs=laws/regulations definition=definition (glossary)

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