GSA’s 50 percent solution: How to get there

How can the General Services Administration reach its goal of having 50 percent of eligible employees teleworking at least one day a week within three years? GSA Administrator Lurita Doan said it’s an ambitious goal. Federal Computer Week asked five experts for recommendations on what GSA must do to meet its 50 percent objective.

Kathryn Kadilak, president,

Strategic Work/Life Solutions

GSA should review its existing technological infrastructure for remote access to ensure speed, reliability and security of the system. It’s very tough to sell telework if your technology doesn’t adequately support it.

GSA also should integrate effective and expanded use of telework into managers’ performance standards to establish greater management accountability. Part of creating accountability involves tracking and reporting on performance. Tracking and reporting on telework participation keeps telework visible, emphasizes its importance to GSA and provides a good foundation for analyzing trends.

GSA should visibly reward managers who have the best telework implementation numbers. An Administrator’s Award for telework excellence would be a great way to create healthy competition and a positive incentive for change.

Firooz Ghanbarzadeh,

director of technology services and solutions at CDW

Successful telework programs start with successful telework plans, so planning the program is both the first step and the hardest step. Telework also must start with security and end with teleworker support. Before deploying the solution, information technology managers must have a support program in place, so that when the calls start coming in, users get answers instead of productivity obstacles.

Carl Fillicio, vice president at the Council for Excellence in Government and former deputy assistant secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration.

I am delighted to see that the GSA is taking the lead in promoting telework. For so many reasons — continuity of operations, environmental and traffic congestion issues, and work and family balance — telework is a smart and effective alternative to office work. If GSA succeeds, it should be held up as an innovative best practice for other agencies across the federal system. The rapid growth of technology has already reinvented the office, and we’ve simply got to catch up with that new reality.

Michael Layman, manager of labor and employment policy at the
Society for Human Resources Management and former legislative director for Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.)

Organizations that have been successful at similar endeavors have compelled managers to institute short-term telework trial periods as a way to force-feed telework and allow managers and employees to decide whether it seemed to be productive.

Another approach is that in the Stevens-Landrieu bill. It would require that agencies initially consider all employees eligible for telework and then decide which employees perform duties that are inappropriate for telework.

Gil Gordon, president of Gil Gordon Associates and editor of the Telecommuting Review

First of all, it never hurts to have the top person — Lurita Doan — saying the right words in support but also talking in terms of specific expectations. That doesn’t mean the goal is automatically going to be achieved, but at least if the targets are out there, managers in the organization will know she’s serious about it. When she has her weekly or monthly staff meeting with her senior executives, if she simply asks, “How are we doing on progress toward our goal?”, pretty soon people get the message that she’s serious.

The second factor is that GSA, in addition to being one of the larger government employers, is also the government’s facilities manager. GSA can use telework to lower the growth rate in office-space costs. [Doan] can create operating efficiencies in her own agency and make that the common practice in other agencies that GSA serves. You can tell managers, for example, for every $1,000 you save per month in office space, we’ll give you 10 percent back in your employee training budget.

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