Federal agencies are expanding telework opportunities
In response to the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which President Obama signed into law last December, federal agencies were required to take some initial steps to implement telework programs for employees. Three of the steps included establishing a telework policy, determining telework eligibility of agency employees, and establishing and filling a Telework Managing Officer (TMO) position.
The terms “telework,” “telecommuting,” “flexible workplace,” “remote work,” “virtual work” and “mobile work” are all used to refer to work done outside of the traditional on-site work environment.
The legislation, Public Law 111-292, requires all federal agencies to provide telework programs for eligible employees. With less than 10 percent of eligible federal employees currently teleworking, according to industry estimates, there is plenty of room for expansion.
An online survey conducted by Alexandria, Va.-based Telework Exchange and Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper Networks shows agencies are moving forward on telework initiatives. The survey of more than 350 federal TMOs and federal employees shows a majority of federal agencies surveyed (86 percent) have established a telework policy, while 8 percent have determined telework eligibility and 76 percent have notified those employees about their eligibility.
In Washington state, government telework programs are expanding in 2011, says Mike Brady, IT project manager in the state’s Department of Social and Health Services. “We are in the process of moving some of our call center staff home full time. Rather than spend the money to house these folks in a central location, we feel we can cut costs by sending them home to work. Since they do not have any in-person client contact, they are perfect for telework.”
Setting up a telework program in government requires a few steps, Brady says. Administrators need to “build a solid policy and make sure to get the appropriate buy-off from the executive managers and union (if needed). There should also be a conversation with IT staff to make sure the IT infrastructure is in place for secure connections plus a plan for how to deal with IT issues while off site.”
Another step in the process, Brady told Govpro.com, is to “build a procedure on how staff can apply for a telework arrangement, how supervisors respond to the application, how IT staff get involved in the conversation, and how to get higher management approval of the arrangement (if required by the policy).”
As part of his department’s implementation, Brady created a SharePoint site with a comprehensive telework handbook, telework forms, process maps and online training. His department scheduled a webinar for its 40 call center staff as they prepared for the initial rollout. The webinar can be reused for subsequent phases.
Brady told Govpro.com that he sees increased implementation of telework programs. “According to the numerous studies that are available, telework is expected to increase greatly in the next five years. As gas prices rise and traffic becomes more congested, people may start looking at alternate ways to get the job done without so much travel. Plus, everyone wants to reduce costs, and if you can start consolidating business space, the savings can be huge.”