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Telework In Unusual Places

You don't have to look far to know that agencies like the Patent and Trademark Office are leading the federal government on telework. But agencies like the Peace Corps are also jumping in and touting the benefits of telework, particularly as recent events like snowstorms, hurricanes and an earthquake have impacted the federal government's operating status in the Washington, D.C. area.

Andrew Jenson, employee and labor relations manager for the Peace Corps, said on a webcast sponsored by Telework Exchange on Tuesday that the February 2010 snowstorms in D.C. area and the subsequent passage of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act made Peace Corps leaders realize they needed to create telework options for headquarters staff and the agency's national offices. As a result, the agency has since updated its telework policy, educated its employees and managers on telework and incorporated telework into a recent office remodel, he said.

At the same time, the Peace Corps is challenged by a law that requires workers to be limited to appointments no longer than five years. "This was established back in the day to ensure the staff remain as fresh as our volunteers," Jenson said. "The downside is it has made continuity and the ability to gain traction on long-term issues and changes difficult."

Jenson said that the Peace Corps, which has around 950 employees working at headquarters in Washington, D.C. and nine national recruiting offices across the country, has used telework to create field-based recruiters. The field office in Chicago, for example, is in charge of recruiting in Cincinatti, Ohio, and previously sent a recruiter there frequently. But now, the agency has established field-based recruiters in frequently-visited cities like Cincinatti, saving the agency money on travel and real estate, he said. "These field-based operations have been helpful," he said. "We've been able to remove some leases and have already seen some savings."

Jenson said the Peace Corps is focusing on performance management as a result of telework. "Every time we have a telework town hall or new policy updates, we tie in performance management," he said, noting that the 2011 employee viewpoint survey showed an increase of between 5 percent and 10 percent on all questions related to performance management.

What impact is the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act having on your agency?

Wired Workplace is a daily look at issues facing the federal information technology workforce. It is published on Nextgov.com. Click here to read the latest entries.

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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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