Agencies must enforce teleworking

Agencies should be held accountable for making teleworking a priority nowthat they are required by law to do it, agreed members of a House panel Thursday.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), a telework champion, also recommended appointinga teleworking czar — a person who would have governmentwide responsibility for enforcing teleworking goals. A czar would help motivate agencies, but eventually the practice would "take off on its own," Wolf said.

Agencies have four years to give 100 percent of their eligible workers the option to work from home or at a telework center. The program is designed to reduce commuting time and traffic congestion and improve worker productivity and satisfaction.

Teleworking "is the law of the land and [agencies] are obligated to do it," Wolf said before the House's Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy. "We didn't put penalties in the law, but agencies that are not compliant ought to be held accountable." Budget restrictions for non-compliant agencies may be one way to enforce the practice, he said.

Teleworking, also called telecommuting, has not taken off in government for cost and cultural reasons. Agencies "are operating under an old mind set,"said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the subcommittee. "It comes down to priorities. In the scheme of things, this hasn't been given the political push [it should]...but it's the right public policy."

To help teleworkers succeed, managers should tell them what is expected."I do think it's a culture change, but ultimately what you produce is what counts," said David Bibb, acting deputy administrator at the General Services Administration. "When you measure by results, it's the right way to manage."

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