Feds pledge to telework more during national Telework Week

Monday often earns the dubious honor as the most congested day, but next week area commuters could see traffic ease up a little as national Telework Week kicks off.

Held March 5-9, the yearly initiative to encourage government and industry to pledge to telework has gathered more than 61,000 pledges. The majority of these pledges are federal employees, who collectively save an estimated $4.1 million in commuting costs in one week alone, amounting to more than $205 million a year, said Cindy Auten, general manager at Telework Exchange.

“Agencies across the nation are rallying behind this effort to help spare employees' pain at the pump, while seeing the benefits first hand,” she said. “Telework and mobility are certainly a priority for the federal government -- a surefire way to ensure an efficient, productive and resilient government.”

The federal government has touted telework as a way to further cut costs, reduce office space and promote a healthier work-life balance. Despite these promises of a better government workforce, a substantial number of feds don’t telework, something that recently prompted a blog on GovLoop titled "Why the Heck Aren’t You Teleworking Yet? "

“I'm tired of seeing feds commute for (literally) hours in the disaster that is D.C. traffic, polluting the spacious American skies and sustaining those eye sores disguised as federal offices along the National Mall, wrote GovLoop’s community manager Andrew Krzmarzick, who then asked “what’s the hold up?”

Commenters quickly chimed in, via e-mail and anonymously. Some said the reason was that certain roles demand employees’ physical presence on-site, making them ineligible for telework. Another common explanation pointed to managers who don’t believe in telework or don’t trust their employees enough to allow them to work off-site. Lack of investment in technology and infrastructure to support telework was another contributing factor.

But the technology excuse doesn’t hold much water these days. “Technology is really not a limiter in any shape or form anymore,” said Tom Simmons, president of the U.S. public sector at Citrix.  “Agencies across the board have developed a reliable, responsive, secure way for remote workers to do their job from home or a remote office, or just expanding telework to general mobility.”

Most agencies aren’t meeting their telework mandates yet, and most recent surveys show that only 5 to 6 percent of federal employees work remotely. Simmons said the resistance toward telework is rooted more in culture than anything; first and second line-level managers don’t know how to set measurable objectives for their remote workers.

“There has been this misconception that if you’re in the office and I can see you working, I have that confidence that you’re earning your pay and that you’re contributing to the mission,” he said. “If I can’t see you, now I have to figure out how to measure you differently.’

However, Simmons added, “this particular issue is getting addressed more and more as agencies implement telework.”

About the Author

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

Reader comments

Fri, Mar 9, 2012

All the comments above are true, except that Fed contractors are scum. We all know how hard these guys work to maintain their invaluable contracts... I work for a software vender selling to the Feds and like the VA telecommuter, I'm fortunate enough to work from my home office and am reminded every Monday morning. You tend to work through most sick days, which you'd think management would embrace;-)

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 Angela California/Indiana

I work for the federal government and just wrote a proposal for my position to be a telework position which would make life better for myself, my family and I would be more productive and have less sick time used during the year. It was declined and I was told that it would not happen...so much for trying to help save money and make work a little more enjoyable!! Good luck to anyone who accomplishes this...I would LOVE to work from home.

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 SOTE Contractor Federal Agency

It might be better work-life balance for FEDS (God's only real workers) but not for the scum-of-the-earth contractors that have to put in a full day at the office doing Federal bidding and then do more work from home because their Fed (who took the afternoon off) decided they wanted something done RIGHT THEN. But that is what contractors are for, to work themselves to death for the greater glory of some Fed.

Mon, Mar 5, 2012

You know some lives at home are just not conducive to telework. My situation is one such!

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 VA Worker

As a telecommuter in the VA I pay for my Internet, supplies, phone. They give me laptop and a printer. I am 200% more productive at home than I ever was at work. I doubt I am saving any money -- my commute time is now spent working. Working at home means you never really ever leave work. Agencies need to wake up and be more adaptive to this type of work structure.

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