Agencies rate low on family-friendly cultures

Feds cite few flexible policies

Many federal employees say they don’t have family-friendly flexibilities at work, according to a new survey.

Feds said they lack options for telecommuting, alternative work schedules, and personal support benefits such as child-care subsidies and wellness programs. The Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation gathered those responses in the “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” survey, which was released May 20.

Family-friendly flexibilities received the lowest score from among several choices, such as effective agency leadership and opportunities for advancement.

The General Services Administration’s employees gave their agency the No. 1 ranking among 31 large agencies for offering such flexibilities. GSA has a goal of making half its employees eligible for telework at least one day a week. In 2008, 16.7 percent of the agency’s eligible employees teleworked, according to an Office of Personnel Management report.

Paul Prouty, acting GSA administrator, said the agency’s top ranking shows its commitment to flexibilities such as telework. “This is great news for GSA.”

However, GSA employees gave their agency only 59.8 out of 100 points. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission — overall the best place in the government to work, according to the survey results — came in second in that category at 59.6 points. The numbers drop as low as 34.1, for the Homeland Security Department.

Congress is trying to encourage telework, especially as a way to make the government an employer of choice. On May 20, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the Telework Enhancement Act of 2009 (S. 707), which would require all agencies to establish telework policies, designate a telework managing officer and ensure that telework is part of the agency’s continuity-of-operations planning.

“With nearly 50 percent of the federal workforce eligible to retire in the next five years, telework is an important tool for agencies to attract new talent,” said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the committee’s Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia Subcommittee. The full Senate still must pass the bill.

Employees gave the Nuclear Regulatory Commission an 80.7 overall rating, the only score to reach into the 80s. The other top agencies are:

  • Government Accountability Office
  • NASA
  • The intelligence community
  • State Department
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Justice Department
  • GSA
  • Social Security Administration
  • Commerce Department

The survey asked federal employees about their agencies’ leadership, performance awards and opportunities for advancement, their ability to find an appropriate work/life balance, and whether their skills match their agencies’ missions.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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