GSA wants to take the telework reins

The General Services Administration’s new telework policy could help other agencies conquer obstacles to implementing a virtual workplace and managing mobile employees, according to a telework expert.

GSA Chief People Officer Anthony Costa on Oct. 31 signed the new strategy that strives to make telework possible for most agency employees. Under the new rules, rather than waiting for agency managers to set the rules on who can telework and when, most GSA employees can choose whether they want to telework. Those who do are authorized to do so “to the maximum extent possible without diminished individual or organization performance.”

Although the new policy applies to GSA only, agency officials said the agency seeks to inspire others to follow suit by acting as a leader to guide itself and the rest of the federal government on “essential workplace and workforce transformation."

“I’m really excited about how much attention the new policy gets,” said Cindy Auten, general manager at Telework Exchange. She called the new framework “a testament over time” of what GSA has done in the telework space.

With the new policy, other agencies can learn how to overcome troubles in adopting telework and how they can learn from and share best practices with GSA on how to do it right, she said.

One of the pillars of the new policy is “Work is what we do, not where we are.” Auten said GSA has always seen telework as “a very important task to promote.” Signing the strategy is “just the tip of the iceberg” of what the agency has done in the telework area, Auten added, including supporting other agencies and making telework more transparent by demoing its telework dashboards.

The new policy, Auten said, will hopefully change other agencies’ perception and demonstrate that telework is readily available and achievable by GSA leading the effort on a federal level.

“This is a pivotal point for telework,” she said. “The policy gives exposure to telework, and other agencies will gain education and awareness from it. This new policy shows that GSA is a force to be reckoned with.”

About the Author

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

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Reader comments

Thu, Nov 3, 2011

In answer to the previous comment: I laugh at your team spirit. How about 'familiarity breeds contempt'? Time wasted sitting in traffic for the daily commute also breeds resentment. Like the first comment, I used to telecommute just one day a week. A new manager decided that she wasn't "comfortable" with regular telecommuting by any of the staff. So she has cost me money, stress, and 104 hours annually of commuting time. Some have said,"Why don't you just move closer to the job?" Maybe I could afford to live closer if they paid a decent wage. "Find another job" you say. Maybe I could if I weren't already over 50... Too old to change jobs but too young to retire. Am I bitter? Oh, yes!

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 Concerned

I teleworked at GSA for 6 years straight full-time, a new manager came into the agency and decided they did not like it. I was not about to add 4 hours of traffic to my day and had to obtain another federal job. Would GSA make up it's mind.

Wed, Nov 2, 2011

Why is there not a Fed-wide policy on telework? Why is each agency allowed to waste money reinventing the wheel on every little housekeeping detail? This isn't rocket surgery, folks.

Wed, Nov 2, 2011

It's so funny how with any new government initiative, "it's all good and wonderful". But here is a negative opinion. There is a social glue that exists when workers regularly are in the presense of their co-workers that is very human and impossible to emulate. Togetherness builds a team spirit, forces folks to play nice together, better measures performance, and ensures to the maximum extent possible that workers are doing what they are paid to do. Telework could help to dismantle this "social contract" we have together as employees and create an environment of recluse and withdrawl. I believe telework is and will be very much abused as managers neither know whether an employee is working nor will they be able to locate them when an unforeseen issue arises, and one ALWAYS does. Telework is yet another tear in our social fabric. As for the "green" aspect, folks probably travel more when they're home than they would if their car were parked all day at work. I'm just not buying it and it reeks of a program someone started for fame and recognition. Happens all the time in the education field. Plus fair performance can be darn near impossible to measure. If producing a certain number of conceptual widgets is all one does, maybe telework can be successful, but measuring an employees successes or failures typically are much more complicated than that. The government seems to be saying it will work in most cases. I think it "could" work in a few. Maybe back office type of work?

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