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Is Telework Really Benefitting Your Agency?

The Washington Post, citing a Government Accountability Office report, recently published an article entitled More Feds are Working from Home. But no one has figured out whether that’s really a good thing.

The thrust of the report and the article is that while roughly 267,000 Federal employees are now working at home, according to GAO, “Agencies continue to face challenges in quantifying the impact of telework, identifying costs incurred, and translating benefits into quantifiable cost savings.”

Some of the purported advantages of telework are that it will “improve recruitment/retention, increased productivity, and improved work/life balance.” It can also save money and energy by reducing the need for office space, reduce the number of employee absences, provide greater flexibility on snow days and during emergencies, limit greenhouse emissions, etc. However, according to GAO, “Without data on net benefits including cost savings associated with telework, agencies have incomplete information to determine the value of telework through assessing whether the benefits being achieved outweigh the costs incurred.”

Telework is not a magic bullet and it does have its costs and challenges. For example, there are costs to set up work-at-home arrangements—personnel costs, training needs, etc.  Also, telework may...

A Vacation Reentry Survival Guide: Return to Your Life Filled With New Energy

On a recent Monday morning, I found myself taking deep breaths in my Manhattan office’s supply closet. It was a sad change of scenery from the Oregon coast, where I’d spent the previous week cruising two-lane highways, hiking beneath towering spruces, and spotting whale spouts in the sprawling Pacific. No matter how much we appreciate our home and workplace, returning from vacation can be brutal—like a case of the Sunday Scaries on steroids.

But re-entry need not be panic-inducing says Amanda Crowell, a cognitive psychologist and improvement coach. Here, we’ve supplemented tried-and-true methods with Crowell’s pro tips to bring you a guide to taking—and returning from—a vacation feeling clear and refreshed (no supply closet necessary).

Before you leave: Think about your return

“Before you even go on your vacation, set it up for success,” says Crowell.

Most importantly, schedule your return home at least one day before you absolutely must. If you go back to work on Monday, try to get home on Saturday instead of Sunday. This will give you a little time to get past any jet lag and provide the all-important “buffer time.”

Visualize the place you want to come...

Is Performance Budgeting an Unnatural Act?

Performance budgeting has been a mantra of government reformers at least since the Hoover Commission in 1949. But implementation has been sporadic. Why is something that seems sensible so hard to do?

A couple of recent research studies could provide some insight—and caution—in attempts to implement performance budgeting. The first report examines agency challenges raised internally by tensions among finance, performance and budget personnel in cities in North Carolina, and the second explores the perspectives of local elected officials in Denmark.

Informing budget decisions with past agency and program performance data, according to University of Maryland professor Phil Joyce, is an “attempt to more explicitly bring together performance information, on the one hand, and the budget process, on the other.” This can be done at various stages in the federal budget process—formulation, approval, execution and audit/evaluation.

In 2003, then-Comptroller General David Walker said in congressional testimony: “Linking planned performance with budget requests and financial reports is an essential step in building a culture of performance management. Such an alignment infuses performance concerns into budgetary deliberations, prompting agencies to reassess their performance goals and strategies and to more clearly understand the cost of performance.”

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The Futility of the Workout-Sit Cycle

In April, the AARP asked me to help moderate an international meeting of 15 exercise scientists in Vancouver. Their goal was to write a consensus statement about how best to use exercise to promote health (specifically “brain health”). What types of exercise are ideal? Is walking as good as running? Does yoga count? How do we measure exercise—as a matter of heart rate, calories burned, or simply of time spent? All or none, of these?

I was blunt about my skepticism. These are huge questions. I’m not convinced that brain health is a thing that can be pursued separately from any other type of health. And I’ve been in enough meetings where scientists try to reach a consensus. It’s fun if you’re into watching people argue.

Which I am, so I said I’d do it. It seemed like a learning opportunity, and I like threatening to cut people’s microphones when they talk too much (even when I don’t actually have that power). So I flew to Vancouver, to a windowless conference room. All of the scientists sat the entire time, as people in meetings do, even when they’re exercise scientists. I...

Amy Schumer’s New Book on How to Be a Boss

In Amy Schumer’s new book she describes her only one-night stand ever and rains fury down on women who wear their hair down at the gym.

She also remembers being a very bad employee.

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, out today (Aug. 16) from Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books, Schumer gives a long list of jobs she’s been fired from, and pays homage to the many horrible bosses who’ve helped her become the manager she is today, as creator, writer, and star of TV show Inside Amy Schumer. In it, she says she’s learned over the years to let her employees be open about their emotions at work, and to give people a fair shot even if they’re not that great at what they were hired for.

“For as long as I can remember, I was seeking employment,” says the comedian and actress. In Manhattan alone, she writes, she’s worked in at least a dozen restaurants and bars. Before she was a performer, she worked as a house painter, a t-shirt seller, a salon hair washer (which she was fired from), a fitness instructor, a pedicab driver, a bartender at a...

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