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USPTO Celebrates a Decade of Telework

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Trademark Work at Home Pilot Program in 1997 Led the Way for Agency’s Telework Success

The Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today celebrated the ten-year anniversary of its Trademark Work at Home program, the agency’s first telework initiative. Based on this successful model, the USPTO expanded its telework offerings to include business units across the agency, with more than 3,000 of the USPTO’s approximately 8,500 employees currently participating in some form of telework. Over the past decade, USPTO has received accolades as a leader in the federal government for its successful and innovative telework programs.

The Trademark Work at Home program started as a small pilot project, with 18 trademark examining attorneys working from home three days per week and sharing office space with other program participants two days a week. The hope was that current technology could be leveraged to allow employees to enjoy the benefits of working remotely, while still meeting the same qualitative and quantitative goals as their colleagues who worked in the office five days a week.

After the Trademark Work at Home pilot proved to be successful, the USPTO ultimately grew its telework initiative to include patent examiners and employees in other business units throughout the agency. The ability to telework continues to gain popularity among USPTO employees. Among trademark examining attorneys, 85% of those who are eligible choose to telework. In the patents organization, the USPTO has a goal that 3,000 patent examiners will be teleworking by 2011.

Jon Dudas, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, said, "Today we celebrate the anniversary of our Trademark Work at Home Program, which helped to demonstrate how beneficial the practice of telework could be to our entire agency. Telework programs are critical to our strategic vision, and we look forward to working with the Office of Personnel Management and Congress to expand these programs to eventually allow for a nationwide work force."

Telework offers countless benefits to the USPTO, its employees and the environment, including:

  • Employee Quality of Life: Allowing employees to telework gives them more time with their loved ones and less time on the road. USPTO employees report that the ability to telework helps them have a better balance between their professional and personal lives.
  • Employee Retention: The USPTO has seen that offering employees the ability to telework helps with employee retention, allowing the agency to retain highly qualified employees, saving hiring and training costs and contributing to a high quality of work.
  • Maximizing Office Space: As more USPTO employees choose to telework, more office space is made available. This, in turn, gives the agency more flexibility to hire more staff without having to acquire and pay for additional space.
  • Reducing Emissions: Telework can mean a significant reduction in auto emissions. For example, among the nearly 950 trademark examining attorneys and patent examiners working remotely four days a week, auto emissions are reduced up to 5,000 tons per year*, compared to if they drove to the office every day.

Rather than taking a "one size fits all" approach, the USPTO has more than a dozen telework programs to address the specific needs of its business units and employees. All of these programs follow procedure set forth in the USPTO Enterprise-wide Telework Policy and are overseen by an agency-wide telework coordinator.

USPTO has received a number of awards for its Trademark Work at Home program. These awards include the 2007 Work-Life Innovative Excellence Award presented by the Alliance for Work-Life Progress, the Telework Program with Maximum Impact on Government for 2006 by the Telework Exchange Tele-Vision Awards; the Telework in the Federal Government Leadership Award for 2004; and several others.

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