The Department of the Treasury Moves into the Workplace of the Future: Case Study of the Virtual Resource Solution (VRS) Launched by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration in November 2000. (the Evolving Workplace)

By Doulaveris, Agapi | The Public Manager, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

The Department of the Treasury Moves into the Workplace of the Future: Case Study of the Virtual Resource Solution (VRS) Launched by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration in November 2000. (the Evolving Workplace)


Doulaveris, Agapi, The Public Manager


Moving workers out of a traditional office environment and into an alternate telework setting is being embraced by private industry, many municipal organizations, and government agencies. The Treasury inspector general for tax administration (TIGTA) is a frontrunner in the federal government, establishing a telework program or its Virtual Resource Solution (VRS). VRS or "telecommuting" offers benefits to organizations, such as the opportunity to reduce costs, increase productivity, attract and retain employees, and reduce environmental pressures. It provides the venue for attracting and retaining a skilled workforce and accommodating an increasingly diverse workplace.

TIGTA's VRS initiative creates a cutting-edge organization that leverages technology and forward-looking management practices. This assists TIGTA in achieving its goals of having a world of knowledge at its fingertips while providing a more productive, efficient, and flexible work environment for its employees. TIGTA believes its employees should have the necessary tools, as well as be in the best location to complete work--be it in the home, a customer's location, or another site of their choosing that is conducive to an optimal work environment.

Getting Started

TIGTA's VRS initiative was formally piloted in November 2000, using two audit and two investigation groups located in different geographic areas across the country. A total of 24 employees, including managers, participated. VRS participants were provided with all of the equipment they needed to work from home (or an alternative work site) on a full-time basis. The pilot ran for nine months, during which time there was frequent communication with the telecommuting managers, generation of monthly equipment usage logs, and a daily account of work activities.

A survey was conducted at the six-month mark, confirming TIGTA's confidence in VRS as an effective means to help restructure and realign the organization's approach to meeting current and future 21st century challenges. Also, as a result of the survey, minor modifications to the program were made and the rollout of VRS to all "eligible" TIGTA employees began. Eligibility was based on a particular position's duties and scope rather than on the employee who occupied the position. Employee participation was at the discretion of his/her manager.

Ninety-one percent of the auditor pilot participants indicated their job satisfaction had increased, with 73 percent reporting an increase in their productivity, and half reporting that their timeliness had improved. Investigation pilot participants also reported improved job satisfaction, productivity, and timeliness.

Employee Feedback

Simultaneous with the formal pilot was an informal one. The inspector general issued a memo encouraging all employees to participate during a six-month period on an "episodic" basis (i.e., on a task-by-task assignment). Feedback from managers participating in the informal pilot indicated that the quality of work of VRS participants had improved, believing it was due to the employees' ability to concentrate better at home; and, that assignments were completed in equal or better time by VRS participants. They also pointed out that their management style did not change as a result of their employees' VRS episodic participation. However, assignments did require more planning; they needed to develop a "trust" in their participating employees; they needed to communicate more; and they needed to focus on task management rather than time management (i.e., focus on specific goals and work products rather than an employee's presence or absence).

At the conclusion of the formal pilot, all TIGTA managers received an intensive, full-day training about "how to" implement VRS, with the participating pilot managers providing a panel discussion on their very positive experiences with telecommuting. …

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