Agency support for telework perceived to be lacking

Face-to-Face With Management Reality

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Federal agency managers continue to resist adopting telework policies that would give employees freedom to work from home or other remote sites, according to a study released today by the Telework Exchange and the Federal Managers Association.

The 214 managers who responded to the survey revealed some reasons for their reluctance. The study also indicates that managers who have had some experience managing teleworking employees generally have a more favorable view of the practice. However, even managers who do have that experience share some of other managers’ concerns about telework.

For example, 77 percent of managers who don't manage teleworkers said fear of losing control over employees is a significant concern. That percentage falls among managers who do manage teleworkers, but only to 67 percent. And 52 percent of managers who telework themselves share the same fear.

In some cases, the survey shows that experience increases certain worries. The productivity of employees working remotely is a concern to 63 percent of managers who don't manage teleworkers and 73 percent of those who do. It is also rated as a serious worry with 73 percent of managers who are teleworkers.

Asked their general views, 54 percent of managers who do not manage teleworkers have a favorable view in general of the practice. That rises to 63 percent for managers who do manage teleworkers, and 75 percent for managers who telework themselves.

The lack of face-to-face communication is an issue for many managers. Overall, 32 percent ranked that as the most important communication challenge. More than half of the managers, 61 percent, said they have misinterpreted e-mail messages from employees, and another 43 percent have misunderstood their employees in phone calls.

“The study highlights the disconnect between the perception of telework and the practicality of telework,” said Darryl Perkinson, national president of FMA. “While funding seems to be the least impediment, managers must find a balance between performance output and employee supervision before agencies can fully realize the benefits of telework.”

The survey suggested that many managers don't believe telework is a priority for their agencies. In addition, continuity-of-operations and pandemic planning are not significant factors propelling telework initiatives. The Telework Exchange and FMA believe that shows that managers are out of step with their agencies in their perception of the practice.

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