Lawmakers: Government can lead on telework

The federal government has an opportunity to take the lead in promoting telework, but hurdles remain, Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) said today.


"With plenty of encouragement and congressional oversight, the federal government can set the example for teleworking," Davis said at the Spring 2008 Telework Exchange Town Hall Meeting in Washington.


"I'm one of those individuals who believes that you can't lead where you don't go, and you can't teach what you don't know," said Davis, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's federal workforce subcommittee.


Davis and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who also spoke at the meeting, are co-sponsors of the Telework Improvement Act of 2007, which would let more federal employees participate in telework programs. The bill also would require agencies to incorporate telework into their continuity-of-operations plans.


"There are agencies in the federal government that are already leading the way, and we hope this legislation will help support their efforts," Sarbanes said.


The bill has been approved by the subcommittee and full committee and is expected to move to the House floor for consideration in the coming months, Davis said.


Sarbanes said the benefits of teleworking "are compelling to those of us in Congress who want to see this move forward and were interested in sponsoring legislation that could expedite things within the federal government."


Among those benefits are a better quality of life with flexible work arrangements for employees; reduced commuting expenses for workers, particularly as gas soars toward $4 a gallon; and a decrease in the federal government's carbon footprint, he said. Telework also offers agencies a tremendous recruiting tool and will make the government more competitive in the marketplace, he added.


However, barriers to telework in government remain, including resistance from managers who are concerned that employees working remotely aren't as productive as those who work in an office, Sarbanes and Davis said. "Contrary to the perception and the fear that many managers have, all the evidence is that agencies that have embraced teleworking are finding that their workers have increased, not decreased, productivity," Sarbanes said.


"It stands to reason that once you come up with a framework which can manage by results and understands that new workplace, people are going to step up to the plate," Sarbanes said.


Davis said managers need to be trained to understand that "what they're really managing is the work, not just the employee…. The bottom line is how much got done."


 

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