The Telework Gap

Jon Krause

It seems there is a telework generation gap in government.

As technology makes it easier to remotely connect with others, many businesses and federal agencies have made the move to allow employees to telework. Employers are implementing telework for variety of reasons. Many cite the need to address low morale and stress, while others focus on environmental issues and cost cutting. Whatever the reason, telework has become more prevalent, which has sparked a debate about whether it makes employees more or less productive than traditional office operations.

The question about the productivity of telework is of particular importance to the federal government, which is already plagued by its reputation for red tape and ineffectiveness. Now with deep budget cuts being made at agencies, telework is being explored even further for government operations.

According to an Office of Personnel Management report, among a workforce of 2 million federal employees, 684,589 were eligible for telework by September 2012, and 168,558 employees were participating in telework programs. Of these employees, 46,000 were teleworking three or more times a week. In a survey of 166 young federal employees by the professional group Young Government Leaders, 132 were allowed to telework and 114 telework at least on occasion—86 percent of those eligible.

What does this mean for productivity? 

Some have criticized Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer at Yahoo!, for banning telework at the company, citing the unstoppable force of technology and the benefits that telework provides. In the Young Government Leaders survey, 44 percent of respondents said teleworking improved their productivity while 5 percent said it decreased their productivity. The rest said it had no impact. 

Respondents also were asked what they thought their manager’s perception of telework was. About 25 percent said their managers thought it increased productivity, and 21 percent said their bosses believed it decreased productivity. So, while the majority of workers believe teleworking is just as effective, if not more so, than regular office work, there is still some reservation among managers.

This disconnect could be due to gaps in age and technological familiarity, which can be a source of distrust of technology among managers. Another reason could be that managers aren’t communicating their support and trust in employees who telework. A third reason could be that many government managers have yet to set appropriate and effective ways to measure performance of teleworkers. It may be up to those employees to communicate to their bosses that their performance has not diminished and make a conscious effort to demonstrate their productivity.

The same methods used to measure in-office performance might not be as useful when evaluating employees’ work from home. Thinking carefully about how to manage and communicate with employees who telework is critical for the arrangement to benefit the employee and the agency.

Kaylan Billingsley is a research fellow at Young Government Leaders, a nonprofit professional
organization for federal, state and local employees.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.