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OPM Wants Agencies To Review Their Telework Data

Data collection and reporting on telework remain a "challenge" for agencies, says OPM.

The Office of Personnel Management wants federal agencies to take a closer look at their telework data to ensure greater accuracy when it comes to reporting the benefit’s use throughout government.

OPM is asking agencies to work with human resources staff and telework managing officers to examine their telework reports submitted through payroll “to determine any potential issues that may be affecting data reporting and accuracy,” according to a recent memorandum from Mark Reinhold, OPM associate director of employee services.

“OPM has discovered telework data collection and reporting remains an area of challenge for agencies,” the memo said. The 2010 Telework Act requires the human resources agency to report annually to Congress on the practice and analyze the data to show how telework is linked to agencies’ goals, including employee engagement.

A new report from the Government Accountability Office concluded that federal agencies in general aren’t doing a great job assessing the cost and benefit of telework. GAO said OPM should issue guidance telling agencies how to identify net savings from their employee telework policies to help the executive branch and Congress assess the value of the flexibility and properly oversee the government’s use of it. Nearly half of the federal workforce is eligible to work from home, GAO said, but agencies and Congress are incapable of making informed decisions on telework without more analysis of its cost and benefits.

Telework, which became an option for federal workers back in 2000, helps agencies save money on expenses ranging from real estate to employee transit subsides, but the biggest impediment to its widespread use in government often has been cultural. Many federal employees have long complained that their agencies have not allowed them to work off-site for various reasons, despite their eligibility for the benefit. The Patent and Trademark Office, an early adopter and leader in allowing many of its employees to work offsite, got into trouble when it came to light in 2014 that some of its patent examiners had abused the time-and-attendance system by exploiting their telework arrangements.

Reinhold’s memo said OPM would provide agencies with reports summarizing their data submissions for individual pay periods so they can review them. “OPM will initiate a series of agency meetings that will bring together HR directors, TMOs, and payroll providers to identify and discuss steps and assistance needed to ensure accurate data reporting to the Enterprise Human Resources Integration system,” said the memo. “Based on these meetings, OPM will assess the need for additional guidance or consultation with individual agencies.