Sociotechnical systems (STS) theory explains the interaction between social and technological factors. STS examines the relationships between people, technology, and the work environment, in order to design work in a way that enhances job satisfaction and increases productivity. Originally developed to explain the paradox of improved technology but decreased productivity, the theory can be applied to the design of telework. One of the principles of STS is minimal critical specification. This principle states that, unless absolutely essential, there should be minimal specification of objectives and how to do tasks in order to avoid closing options or inhibiting effective actions. Telecommuting provides teleworkers with the freedom to decide how and when to do their tasks. Similarly, teleworkers have the responsibility to use their equipment and resources to carry out their responsibilities. This increase in responsibility for their work also increases their power, supporting the idea that teleworking is a privilege and in some companies, considered a promotion.
If all Federal employees who are eligible to telework full-time were to do so, the Federal Government could realize $13.9 billion savings in commuting costs annually and eliminate 21.5 billion pounds (9,800,000 t; 9,600,000 long tons) of pollutants from the environment each year. Events in 2007 have pushed telework to the forefront as a critical measurement for the U.S. federal government. Telework relates to continuity of operations (COOP) and national pandemic preparedness planning, reducing dependence on foreign oil and the burden of rising gas prices, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC), and a focus on recruitment and retention. During a keynote address at the September 12, 2007 Telework Exchange Town Hall Meeting, Lurita Doan, at that time the Administrator for the General Services Administration, announced an aggressive commitment goal to increase agency telework participation. Her challenge would enable 50 percent of eligible agency employees to telework one or more days per week by 2010. As of 2007, 10 percent of eligible GSA employees telework, compared to 4.2 percent for the overall Federal workforce. Her goals were to increase participation to 20 percent by the end of 2008, 40 percent by the end of 2009, and finally 50 percent by 2010.
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