GSA inaugurates updated telework policy

This story has been updated.

The General Services Administration on Monday put into effect what is viewed as a model for governmentwide telework policy, updating guidance for managers from one that presumed employees cannot telecommute to one that presumes they can.

At a signing ceremony on the 12th floor of GSA's temporary headquarters on First Street N.E. in Washington, Administrator Martha Johnson said, "This is a great day," as she congratulated the project management team that devoted three years to the Updated Mobile and Telework Policy.

The document signed by GSA Chief People Officer Anthony Costa begins with these goals: "Make every GSA employee, with few exceptions, eligible for telework; explicitly define some of the ways in which we work, such as hot desking, the workspace sharing arrangements known as hoteling and desk sharing; and most important, empower our entire workforce to be mobile for the 21st century."

Saying GSA was going first in showing its support for telework efforts by the Office of Personnel Management, Johnson stressed that successful telework "is a team sport. It's all about culture and trust, not a bunch of rules." She said the government is evolving to become "more collaborative and team-based as we're no longer sitting by ourselves in the office and no longer sitting by ourselves at home." She added that the future of the federal workforce will depend on "evolving our behaviors and compacts."

She expects the policy to be fine-tuned in the next two years as the government focuses on "leaning forward" to adapt to the world of mobile work. The few employees who will not be allowed to telework will be determined through managers using common sense, she added, giving the example of an employee who runs a child care center.

OPM Director John Berry congratulated the gathered GSA employees for "leading the way" on boosting telework, saying the "10 second commute from the bedroom or kitchen" helps retain better workers and takes pressure off an overburdened transportation system. "Presentism -- or sitting at desk but not producing -- is as problematic as absenteeism," Berry said. "Managers have to trust, but hold employees accountable. Nonperformers can no longer hide behind their desks, and workers can only be judged by results." Teleworking is the key to the success that will lead to "better services for taxpayers and a stronger government for the country," he added.

Berry noted that GSA has the highest percentage of telecommuters of all federal agencies and that data from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey show that the teleworkers score well on engagement and job satisfaction. Recalling the August earthquake on the East Coast, he said, "Whether it's shaky ground or falling ice, telework allows us to continue to operate the government."

The new policy builds off of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act, which requires agencies to "increase the use of flexible work arrangements to improve management effectiveness and create efficiencies, improve agency continuity of operations, and enhance work-life balance," GSA said in a statement.

The text includes a commitment to negotiating the implementation with unions, but does not include specific sanctions for managers who fail to execute it. Johnson told reporters she plans to make actualizing telework part of a larger review of managers' performance on the "environmental footprint," which would also include curbing use of office printers and reducing employee travel.

Less enthusiastic about the policy was Jack Hanley, GSA General Council president at the National Federation of Federal Employees, which represents 4,000 GSA workers. "We feel strongly that telework will be a great tool for improving agency efficiency and worker morale so long as it is administered fairly and transparently," he said in an email to Government Executive. "Unfortunately, the agency has been less than cooperative in working with employee representatives on key work-life issues that stem from this rapid transition to a remote workforce."

Hanley said GSA has refused NFFE's requests to bargain over changes in telework policy, citing concerns about the cost burden on employees for related expenses such as utilities and equipment. "The federal service labor management relations statute requires that GSA must negotiate all changes in workplace conditions before implementation," he said, "and they haven't done that."

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.