Wired Workplace Wired WorkplaceWired Workplace
How information technology is changing the landscape for federal employees.

Teleworking, Silicon Valley Style

ARCHIVES

Telework has been expanding across the federal government, in large part thanks to the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act. But several studies, including the Office of Personnel Management’s most recent status report on telework, have noted that cultural barriers to it still exist, in large part because managers are reluctant to trust that their employees are working, not shirking, outside of the office.

This may be one of many areas where government could learn a lesson from Silicon Valley. I visited companies such as Facebook and design firm IDEO last week, and every employee I talked to spoke about how managers at these companies have an implicit trust in their employees, and that is a major factor not only in their job satisfaction but also in their drive to perform their jobs well.

At Facebook headquarters, for example, take a look at their video game spots, Zen garden, skateboarding benches and trendy lounges and cafeterias, and you may wonder how employees there get any work done. In addition, Facebook employees have no set hours, meaning they can come to work and leave when they want.

At IDEO, employees are free to work in whatever environment is best suited for performing the job they are doing that day – whether that is at home, in a coffee shop, in their trendy café or in one of their many open collaborative workspaces.

Yet when visiting both of these companies, I sensed this “pressure cooker” environment where the positive pressures of collaborating combined with the implicit trust that managers have for their employees is producing significant results.

“I think traditional companies would seize up when they saw our work space,” said Slater Tow, a spokesman for Facebook. “But slacking isn’t tolerated. Silicon Valley is full of overachievers, so you have all of these overachievers who all want to do the best work. And the sense of joy here comes from the work.”

While there’s no silver bullet when it comes to improving federal employee performance and improving the ability of federal managers to effectively manage their employees regardless of their location, the lessons from Silicon Valley are powerful.

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.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

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

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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