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Why do federal managers oppose telework?

Let’s see if we can get to the bottom of this: Why is it that federal managers are so opposed to telework?

Without a doubt, many are. Every time we publish a story related to telework, we hear from readers whose agencies supposedly bless the idea but whose managers quash it.

“Some Federal Aviation Administration managers have told their employees don't even ask for teleworking,” writes one reader. “At this point, the employees never put in a request to telework because it might upset their manager and start a pattern of retaliation.”


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The reader was responding to a report that employee satisfaction with telework policies has actually dropped in recent years, despite a big push by the Office of Personnel Management to make telework more widely available in the federal government.

Less than 10 percent of the 247,268 feds surveyed said they telework at least one day per week. Twenty-three percent of those respondents said they didn’t telework because they weren’t allowed to, despite having jobs amenable to teleworking.

“The U.S. Forest Service states that it promotes telecommuting. The region in which I work is against telecommuting,” writes JG. “Guess who wins out?”

Many readers say it is a matter of trust: Managers often do not trust their employees enough to let them work sight unseen on a regular basis.

Others say the deeper cause is a lack of management know-how: Some supervisors simply do not know how to assess the performance of employees beyond taking roll call. Or they cannot communicate effectively with employees through phone calls and e-mail.

We would like to hear from the managers on this one. Here are a few questions to consider:

* To what extent does telework hamper your ability to manage the performance of employees?
* Does telework make it more difficult for employees to stay in regular contact with you and their co-workers?
* Do security policies make it impractical to allow employees to work from home?
* What are the other factors that go into deciding who, if anyone, can telework?

Posted by John S. Monroe on Jul 15, 2010 at 12:18 PM


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Reader comments

Thu, Sep 30, 2010

It is easier to manage in-office workers. While some federal managers are excellent, the majority (including mine) seem to avoid required personnel/management training and resist telework because they don't have the requisite skills to monitor, motivate or support remote employees, or just don't want to be bothered.

Fri, Aug 13, 2010

Well, if we were ALLOWED to work from home, there would be less "watercooler" discussion going on. If there is noboy else to talk to/with, myabe more work would/could get done. If an employee was to "go postal" who else would get hurt? Family or neighbors maybe?

Mon, Jul 26, 2010 steve DC

My boss telecommutes 3.5 days per week and he complains that he can't connect to the network from home. He can't set up his own email and is so disconnected from his IT projects that he causes far more chaos than he could ever resolve. That is a $120k salary representative of my Federal office.

Mon, Jul 26, 2010 steve DC

What happens when an employee 'plans' to telecommute, but can't log in due to the limited VPN bandwidth during the workhours or some random weekly security configuration change that denies them access? Do they produce? Do they run into the office despite their planned errands? Do they take a vacation day (hahaha)?

Tue, Jul 20, 2010 RA

I am a federal manager who is not co-located with any of my employees. They are in different offices, and sometimes telework (which my agency encourages). My agency encourages managing projects, not people. A bad employee can sit all day in the office playing solitaire on the computer, while a good employee can be productive anywhere. Look at their work product to see if they are working.

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