OPM’s recent report on telework in government once again raised the issue of whether managers are inhibiting its adoption in the federal sector due to their lack of comfort at being able to see what their employees are doing all the time.
"Participants shared that some managers are used to being able to see their staff members physically working in the office," OPM reported in the study.
Now managers may get the opportunity to look over the shoulders of their teleworkers, too. Sue Shellenbarger writes in The Wall Street Journal that some companies are deploying technology to monitor whether those working from home or other remote locations are actually doing what they're supposed to be doing. Right now, fewer than 10 percent of companies are engaged in such snooping, but research firm Gartner expects that number to jump to 60 percent by 2015.
Employers argue they have a right to determine if the people they're paying are actually working. Last month, Matthew Yglesias reported in Slate that a study conducted by Wakefield Research for Citrix showed that more than 40 percent of workers admitted they'd watched TV or a movie while teleworking. Thirty-five percent said they had done household chores and 28 percent acknowledged cooking dinner.
In the federal sector, agencies already have addressed the issue of making sure teleworkers actually work, at least to a certain extent, with telework agreements that spell out expectations. With those in place, shouldn't it be more about the results employees produce rather than monitoring exactly what they are doing at all times of the working day in an especially Big Brotherish way?
In its report, OPM noted that “in comparison to non-teleworkers facing barriers to telework, teleworkers are more likely to report knowing what is expected of them on the job and feeling as though they are held accountable for results." Now they may feel that they're even more accountable than their in-office counterparts. That's not likely to engender a great deal of trust between teleworkers and their bosses.
Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.
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