03/08/2013 10:33 pm ET Updated May 08, 2013

Telework's Snow Ball Fight

Let's say it's been an action-packed two weeks. Two storms impacted the country -- Yahoo! and Saturn. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of talking about both. No matter what your views are, we were reminded this week of the importance of contingency plans -- even if the weather threat was bigger than the actual impact.

In D.C., while it was no Snowmageddon, Winter Storm Saturn, or as some called it, Snowquester, did impact some areas. But whether you were affected or not, chances are many of you teleworked -- and Telework Week's 135,000+ pledges were ready. Hosted by Mobile Work Exchange, Cisco, and Citrix, Telework Week 2013 was this week, and it served as the third annual, global effort to encourage individuals, organizations, and agencies to telework.

We've all heard how telework can help agencies and organizations remain productive when inclement weather and other emergencies force office closures. During Telework Week 2012, 71 percent of participating organizations saw improved continuity of operations (COOP). That's no surprise - -Telework Week is an ideal opportunity to test COOP plans.

One example of an organization that continued to run optimally during inclement weather is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). During Hurricane Sandy in September 2012, the agency reported that more than 900 employees logged on to its virtual private network (VPN) during the storm -- more than twice the usual number.

In emergency situations such as Snowquester -- or at least the threat of it -- having a COOP plan in place is essential. A successful COOP plan should include specific guidance pertaining to weather emergencies and telework -- and communication is key. All managers and employees should be aware of the organization's procedures and policies -- whether they are full-time, part-time, or ad hoc teleworkers.

Whatever tomorrow brings, the 135K Telework Week pledges are now better prepared to handle it. Not only that, they also saved some money in the process. Collectively, pledges saved $12.2 million in commuting costs -- that's an average savings of $90 per pledge. In a time of pinched budgets, Americans could use that extra money in their pockets.

Additionally, Telework Week pledges showed how getting off the roads can help save money and save the environment. In one week, pledges spared the environment 7,800 tons of pollutants -- or 15 million pounds. The savings are significant -- in fact, pledges could reduce their carbon footprint by almost three CO2 tons in one year.

With Telework Week 2013 ending on a high note, we now look at what we learned from the initiative and how we can improve even more. Mobile Work Exchange will release a comprehensive lessons learned/best practices report detailing the impact of Telework Week year over year. Stay tuned for this report to be released at the Spring Town Hall Meeting on April 30 - oh, and while you're at it, why don't you join us there? Come share best practices in telework and mobility with more than 40 speakers and 900 attendees expected. Register today at See you there!

Cindy Auten is the general manager of Mobile Work Exchange and pledged to telework five days for Telework Week.