Telework milestones

By Brittany Ballenstedt

December 7, 2012

This weekend marks two important milestones for federal telework. The first takes place on Friday, the deadline for agencies to submit data on their telework programs to the Office of Personnel Management. The second milestone comes on Sunday, the two-year anniversary of the Telework Enhancement Act being signed into law.

OPM announced last month that agencies have until Dec. 7 to submit data on areas such as participation rates and productivity measures for telework at their agency. OPM will use the data received in response to the request and statistics from other sources, such as the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, to compile its 2013 telework status report to Congress.

This year’s telework data call comes as the government celebrates the two-year anniversary of the signing of the Telework Enhancement Act, which required agencies to establish policies on working outside the office, identify all employees who would be eligible for the benefit and inform them of the option. The law also requires agencies to name an official to manage telework programs and to incorporate a telework policy into their continuity-of-operations plans.

Telework already is having an impact at federal agencies, with OPM’s 2012 report to Congress showing participation rates more than doubling from 10 percent in 2009 to approximately 21 percent in September 2011. The expansion of telework also enabled the government to continue operations during the recent Superstorm Sandy, as agencies such as the Patent and Trademark Office were able to operate with an average of more than 70 percent productivity.

Telework’s expansion in the federal space also is having an impact on employee satisfaction, even at a time when pay freezes and job cuts have diminished overall morale. The 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results released late last month found that almost one-quarter of the more than 687,000 federal employees surveyed reported that they have teleworked in some form. And telework satisfaction has increased slightly in the past year, upfrom 70 percent in 2011 to 73 percent in 2012.

Edward Morche, senior vice president and general manager of Level 3’s Government Markets Group, said Friday that events such as Sandy highlight telework’s progress. But as agency telework programs continue to expand, he said, leaders will need to keep in mind the network and tools that enable telework success.

“If agencies see more telework in their future, they need to make sure that the network supporting them is able to scale quickly to accommodate growth in telework services and reliable enough to depend on,” Morche said. “It’s the difference that could make telework productive, or another unnecessary IT headache.”

What are your thoughts on the status of telework since the 2010 act was signed into law? How has your job changed in the past two years as a result of the law, if at all, and how would you grade your agency’s progress?

By Brittany Ballenstedt

December 7, 2012