Casting a wide telework net
- By John Moore
- Jan 26, 2009
Tawny Stitely’s regular commute covers 40 miles from Calvert County, down on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay shore, into the Northern Virginia headquarters of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).
But at least it’s not a daily commute.
Stitely, a management analyst, can avoid that trip three days a week as a teleworker for the agency’s manpower, personnel and security office.
Her job involves processing electronic documents to bring new people on board and effect individual promotions, among other personnel moves.
To accomplish that work, Stitely taps into the Corporate Management Information System, which provides data on employee types and billeting, and the Defense Civil Personnel Data System, which processes documents for hiring and position- description changes. DISA teleworkers such as Stitely use laptops with built-in Common Access Card smart-card readers for authentication and access enterprise systems via a virtual private network.
Stitely, who works at DISA’s Arlington facility on Tuesdays and Thursdays, said she finds no difference between office work and telework. “I’m doing the…same job here at headquarters that I do when teleworking,” she said.
Stitely is among the estimated 40 to 45 percent of DISA’s 6,500-employee population who telework one to three days a week. Three days per week is the maximum DISA currently allows. The practice could become more prominent with the agency’s pending move to Fort Meade, Md., which is 35 miles north of the Arlington, Va., offices. A result of the most recent Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) action, the move will affect about 4,000 DISA employees and is slated to begin in late 2010 or early 2011.
As new hires and long-time employees go the telework route, DISA aims to keep the lines of communication open through collaboration tools. Aaron Glover, special assistant to the director of manpower, personnel and security at DISA, said the organization offers two such tools: Defense Connect Online and the e-CollabCenter. DISA provides training to managers and employees on the tools and their usefulness in teleworking.
Stitely said DISA’s e-CollabCenter is pressed into service for all-hands meetings.
The collaboration service provides IBM’s Sametime for Web conferencing and instant messaging. “Everyone can participate and see what is going on,” she said. Online participants can send questions via instant messaging, and an onsite coordinator relays those questions to the presenter.
The presence aspect of instant messaging, which shows when people are at their computers, also lets managers keep track of the employees on hand at any given time, whether those employees are in-office or teleworking. Stitely said her supervisor requires teleworkers to be logged on to instant messaging during the workday.
Jack Penkoske, director of manpower, personnel and security at DISA, said the agency’s telework program would move forward even without BRAC. He called telework “a huge positive for us” because 72 percent of DISA’s workforce lives in Northern Virginia.
“Some may not want to move up to Fort Meade, so they have an option” to telework, he said. “We think that is going to keep a larger percentage of the individuals with us.” What’s more, Penkoske said, the flexibility of telework should serve as a recruitment tool for attracting new employees.
John Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.