Managers slow to accept teleworking

Reluctance on the part of federal managers to allow their employees to work from home or another location outside the office is a primary reason that teleworking has not taken off in government, according to officials.

"Management reluctance and employee fears are two major barriers to telework implementation," said Teresa Jenkins, director of the Office of Personnel Management's Office of Workforce Relations. She was speaking Sept. 6 at a House Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee hearing.

Some employees are still confused about their agency's teleworking policies or don't know whether teleworking, also called telecommuting, is even an option, subcommittee Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) said at the hearing. Managers should embrace teleworking and learn to "shift their focus from process-oriented performance measurements to results," Davis said.

In addition to management concerns, certain federal and state tax laws and regulations "can also act as potential barriers to telecommuting for both the public and private sectors," Robert Robertson, director of the General Accounting Office's Education, Workforce and Income Security Issues, said in his testimony. For example, interstate teleworking arrangements could open the possibility of double-taxing the income of federal telecommuters, he said.

To help spur teleworking in government, OPM plans to:

* Offer a telework leadership seminar for top-level agency officials in October.

* Broadcast a satellite educational program to federal agencies nationwide in November.

* Offer a conference in January aimed at agency supervisors and managers.

* Publish a guide for managers and supervisors in the fall.

* Help agencies evaluate progress in implementing telework.

In addition, an interagency training consortium will develop by November an Internet-based training module to help reduce manager resistance and employee fears.

The percentage of federal employees who telecommute at least one day per week on average has nearly doubled since 1998. However, at 2.6 percent of the workforce, the percentage is still small, Jenkins said.

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