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Long before the Defense Information Systems Agency began embracing telework, the agency knew a thing or two about managing a remote workforce. Now, the agency is taking those same lessons and applying them to its top-notch telework program.
 
Nathan Maenle, acting director of manpower, personnel and security at DISA, said Wednesday during a webinar by Telework Exchange that about 51 percent of the agency’s 16,000 civilian, military and contractor workforce is located outside of the headquarters at Fort Meade in about 75 operating locations around the world. This means that regardless of whether employees are teleworking or at a DISA field office, managers have grown accustomed to managing remote workers, he said.
 
“I have people at many of the locations around the world, and I can’t sit and watch them every day,” he said. “So we have tools and feedback mechanisms built in to measure their performance.”
 
That means regular office workers and teleworkers are held to the same performance standards, he said. All employees are required to file an activity report each day to detail their work plans and accomplishments, he said, adding that this also helps foster cross-communication throughout the agency.
 
Still, despite DISA’s progress in bringing managers on board with telework, many other agencies are still struggling with the concept. A poll taken of participants in Wednesday’s webinar found that 29 percent encounter resistance from top-level managers, while 23 percent encounter resistance from mid-level managers. Other participants (14 percent) said they have encountered resistance but are unsure at what level.
 
Telework training opportunities also appear to be somewhat lacking, as more than half (59 percent) of webinar participants said their organization does not offer information and training on performance management expectations for teleworkers. Collaboration tools, however, appear to be off to a positive start, as 59 percent of participants said their agency offers collaboration tools for remote workers.
 
Meanwhile, DISA encountered another telework success story on July 2, when a string of major storms knocked out power in the D.C. area for days, Maenle said. Because DISA requires all teleworking employees to take their equipment home with them every night, more than 2,200 employees were able to continue workingthat day, he said. “When they have to telework in an emergency situation, they always have their equipment with them, and they are able to continue accomplishing the mission,” he said.
 
Maenle said teleworkers at DISA also sign a telework agreement that outlines several requirements, including where they’ll be working, what hours and a safety checklist that ensures they are working in a safe environment. Teleworkers also agree to only working on government-issuedequipment, he said, noting that DISA currently does not have any plans to embrace a “bring your own device,” or BYOD strategy anytime soon.
 
“At this time, the agency is looking at government devices only,” he said. “It’s a security issue for us, and we’re making sure we are protecting the information that’s entrusted to us. Where the future takes us is unknown at this point.”

Reporter Portrait for GovernmentExecutive.com

Brittany Ballenstedt writes Nextgov's Wired Workplace blog, which delves into the issues facing employees who work in the federal information technology sector. Before joining Nextgov, Brittany covered federal pay and benefits issues as a staff correspondent for Government Executive and served as an associate editor for National Journal's Technology Daily. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Mansfield University and originally hails from Pennsylvania. She currently lives near Travis Air Force Base, Calif., where her husband is stationed.

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