Bigger threat: National crises or unprepared managers?

Federal employees want to telework during crises, but policy and IT challenges hinder them

More than 90 percent of federal employees believe it is important that they continue working during a national emergency or natural disaster, according to a recently released survey about continuity of operations and teleworking.

The survey, conducted by the Government Business Council, the research division of Government Executive Media Group, and CDW Government LLC, revealed that more than half of federal workers could function remotely for more than six days, and an additional 20 percent could accomplish critical tasks from an alternate location for as many as five days.

“Federal employees want to get the job done, no matter the circumstance,” said Andy Lausch, vice president of federal sales for CDW-G. “Today more than ever, federal employees rely on mobility for seamless business operations. In turn, federal agencies can better enable employees by creating secure virtual work environments and outfitting employees with the tools they need to make remote work possible, even under challenging circumstances.”

While the majority of the randomly sampled federal employees reported being willing and able to work remotely during a crisis, 31 percent said telework eligibility requirements and lack of coordination among agency decisionmakers have prevented their agency from being better prepared to continue operations. Sixty-two percent expressed concern that communications technology such as cell phones and wired phones would not work, and approximately 50 percent said they worried that data would not be accessible remotely, and that servers or networks would be overloaded.


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Missed opportunities

Although the vast majority federal workers expressed the desire to telework during an emergency, a FedScoop survey reveals that only 23 percent of federal IT workers reported telecommuting exclusively or regularly, while an additional 27 percent of federal IT employees said they weren’t allowed to telework at all.

FedScoop polled 110 federal and 67 industry IT workers about their thoughts on telework, and reported that 93 percent of all managers surveyed were satisfied with work done remotely. The report added that 93 percent of federal government sector employees said the opportunity to telework would make working for an organization more desirable; 95 percent of the feds surveyed have a generally favorable opinion of telework.

FedScoop said the results showed that agencies aren’t “capitalizing on telework opportunities to the same extent as private sector organizations, and perceived organizational values may be affected.”

 

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Reader comments

Wed, Jun 30, 2010 Mike Moxcey

If you grade your workers by attendance, then telework is impossible. If you grade your workers by productivity, then it is easy to let folks telework. Problem is that there are very few managers who can comprehend how to measure actual work. That would involve having to be able to perform it yourself.

Wed, Jun 23, 2010

Best way to ensure some federal workers will be available in a long-term disaster situation, is to stop concentrating most employees within a few miles of each other in a few large cities. Redundant capability is the solution, and telework is at most a tiny part of that.

Wed, Jun 23, 2010

Managers justify their existence with herds of employees. Teleworking leaves the managers with no one to hover over. Similar to a zoo, a zoo keeper only has his job as long as there are animals in the pens. Telework phobia is not about the job.

Wed, Jun 23, 2010 Kevin Dayton

The Air Force Research Labratory solves one piece of the Govt and defense contractor telework puzzle for free. LPS-Remote Access provides extremely secure, Govt or DIB remote desktop access WITHOUT GFE hardware. Its USAF accredited and approved DOD-wide for COOP. See https://spi.dod.mil/COOP/DoD_reg_SSL.htm

Wed, Jun 23, 2010

This article could be considered as misleading as it is informative. There is no indication regarding the tasks that would be performed by teleworking. This lack of information infers that all respondents surveyed actually performed functions that should be candidates for a teleworking program. It should also be noted disaster recovery and/or emergency management infrastructures typically are not designed to handle non-emergency day-to-day type functions. Mentioning everyday (teleworking) and emergency (diaster recovery) type functionality as if they are one and the same is not only misleading but borders on being irresponsible.

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