Ineligible to telework? Join the club.

Despite the federal government’s move toward a more flexible and mobile workforce, nearly 70 percent of respondents in a survey said they haven’t been notified that they are eligible to telework.

The Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint survey showed that only 27.2 percent of the 253,632 respondents said they had been notified of their eligibility to telework. More women than men -- 29.4 percent compared to 25.3 percent – said they had been notified of their eligibility.

The survey showed that of those respondents who were eligible to telework, 9.4 percent do it “very infrequently, on an unscheduled or short-term basis.” The second most popular arrangement for teleworkers was to work remotely one or two days per week. Only 2.1 percent said they telework three or more days per week.

The majority of respondents who don’t telework said the reason is that their job requires them to be physically present. Approximately 40 percent of male respondents said they had jobs that required them to be physically present, while less than 30 percent of women who participated in the survey said they had jobs that demanded their physical presence.

Approximately 12 percent said they didn’t telework because they had chosen not to. The survey found that more men (12.3 percent) than women (11.3 percent) said it was their personal choice to not telework.

Compared to last year’s survey, nearly 3 percent more women said they hadn’t received approval from their agencies to telework even though they had the kind of job that allowed that sort of arrangement. For men this year, that increase was more than 2 percent.

The survey found that respondents had an overall positive experience with their agency’s telework programs. More respondents said they were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” than those who said they were “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.”  

More than half of the respondents also expressed satisfaction with the Alternative Work Schedules program in their agencies: 27.5 percent said they were “very satisfied” and 33.1 percent said they were “satisfied” with AWS.

Many of the respondents also acknowledged that their managers support work/life balance. Nearly 45 percent said their supervisor understands their need to balance work with other life issues, and nearly one-third said they “strongly agree” their superiors support the issue. 

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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Reader comments

Sun, Nov 20, 2011

I agree with telework, however I noticed that management does not trust employee in lower grades, our office was moving a few weeks ago and they did not allow employees in my work category (support staff) to work from home. We could be doing the same thing even better. We had to come to the office , deal with the noise, dust , lack of desk etc, to work on paper files. We did not have access to computers or phones. However, attorneys, paralegals were allowed to stay "working from home" the whole week. The ones that stay in the office did not produce much, we are still working on the same workload that we were assigned for the "week without computers"

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 Will Never Telework Washington, DC

I teleworked for a year under one manager and worked harder for the privilege because of the managers trust in my work. Which I proved through a review of the log files that I posted every evening I teleworked. I was transferred to a new manager that manages by intimidation or bullying employees and I decided it was better to be in the office than to do governments work in my home being harassed by someone. This same manager required employees to work during snow storms while she was at the grocery store or shoveling her home. I would rather just take a day of leave and take care of home

Fri, Oct 21, 2011 John Franks Cincinnati

I fought for two years to have one employee (a senior scientist) to have telework privileges because she needed to write, not be in the office distracted. There were battles over how to get her Internet access and if it came by cable how to make sure that she oculdn't watch TV over the same cable instead of work. She lived too far from a hub to have DSL. I finally got it approved and then had to have safety and ergonomics people visit her home office to make sure it was comparable to her office at work. Only then was she allowed to stay at home to telework two days a week, providing they weren't consecutive. Later, when I needed a six-month period of telework for myself as I recovered from an injury that was work related, I was told that I could have mornings, but had to be in every afternoon. As that wasn't reasonable and imposed a greater stress on me - I only lived five minutes away and could get in for important meetings when necessary - I had to take early medical retirement. I had no advocate as I had advocated for my employee - who is still at the agency and teleworking now three days a week unless something special is required. Others in the group do so ad hoc. I now consult for the same agency via telework and haven't set foot in the building except for once three years ago for a meeting that had people who formed the working group and who were from many locations. I have even teleworked from a hospital bed for this project when deadlines were approaching. But, the agency, still has less than 6% of its staff formally approved for telework since management is of the mind set that if they can't see you, you aren't there.

Wed, Oct 5, 2011 dave

Its not about technology, its about control. Most older managers(even younger ones) need to see their people because it makes them feel in control and needed. Ive worked on projects where the client said we must be on site every day - to work on hardware 1500 miles away. The reason "our work model does not support remote work"(yet we all had vpn access). Translated to - I cant see you working at home therefore you are not working. If a group works remotely and without constant interaction - control - by the manager and is more efficient or even equally efficient. Then is the manager really needed? Telework exposes management incompetency since we all know a lot of managers became managers by putting in the time. Not by being innovative or creative leaders or even being competent or good at what they do. That is your block to making telework work.

Tue, Sep 27, 2011 No Longer Telework Billings, MT

I work in a cloud and use VPN to access my agency's internal systems. I was told I was the ideal candidate to telework. I started with one day and was increased to 2 days. I got dropped back down to one day because our management considered the program a success and decided to reduce everyone to one day. It does not make sense but management does whatever it wants to do and reports to OPM distorted numbers. OPM should look carefully into telework as it is a way of savings considerable money from the budget.

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