OPM survey to gauge telework progress

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Office of Personnel Management officials issued their annual survey as part of the agency's effort to measure the status of the federal telework program.

OPM's 2003 telework survey was distributed to 80 agencies and departments. Each agency's telework coordinator has been asked to complete the survey by Nov. 1, but OPM officials will be flexible in accepting surveys after that date, an agency spokesman said. This is the fourth such survey OPM has conducted.

The survey will gather data on employees whose jobs permit them to work outside the office one or more days a week and will help identify telecommuting trends. One OPM spokeswoman said the government is moving toward having the option available for all eligible employees.

"We are far from that," she said. "However, we are making steady progress each year." Five percent of the federal workforce was telecommuting as of fall 2002, up from 4.2 percent in 2001.

For this year's survey, OPM officials are trying to gather more than statistics, the spokeswoman said. They are pushing agencies to examine their workforce, define which positions are eligible for telework and determine how to improve their telework programs.

The survey will allow OPM officials to write the annual report to Congress on the state of telework. Along with officials at the General Services Administration, OPM officials use the information to provide policies and guidance to agencies as they develop telework programs.

"Telework helps an agency attract, motivate and retain well-qualified workers," said OPM Director Kay Coles James.

Tim Kane, president of the International Telework Association and Council, said the law requires individual agencies to create telework programs, and OPM officials have provided strong guidance to agencies.

"It's up to each and every agency to develop their own program," Kane said. "There are a lot of needs for information and knowledge sharing in the subject matter."

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Phoning from home

Telework numbers for 2002, according to the Office of Personnel Management's November 2002 survey:

* A total of 90,010 federal employees in 77 agencies were teleworking in 2002, up 21 percent from 2001.

* Agencies reported 625,313 eligible employees — 35 percent of the federal workforce — which is a 20 percent increase from the number of employees eligible in 2001.

* In 2002, 14.4 percent of eligible employees teleworked. That represents 5 percent of the total federal workforce, up from 4.2 percent in 2001.

* As of 2002, 68.5 percent of the total eligible federal workforce had been offered the opportunity to telework, more than the targeted 50 percent mandated by Public Law 106-346 for 2002.

* Of the 77 reporting agencies, 63 reported having approved and implemented their telework policies, 9 were in the process of policy development, 3 were in the implementation stages, and 2 agencies reported no policies or development activity.

Source: Office of Personnel Management's January 2003 report to Congress, "The Status of Telework in the Federal Government"

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