Agencies gradually embrace telework

More than half of agencies reporting their statistics had an increase in total number of teleworkers

The number of federal employees who telework is increasing, with 5.24 percent of all federal employees working away from their offices in 2008, according to a new report.

The total number of teleworkers increased from 94,643 in 2007 to 102,900 in 2008, and 48 of the 78 agencies that reported their telework statistics say they have more people teleworking than a year ago, according to the Office of Personnel Management report titled, “Status of Telework in the Federal Government.”

“The report indicates a steady, albeit very slow progress, in telework,” John Berry, OPM director, wrote in the report.

Berry is setting up an advisory group of experts to develop telework policies for agencies. “We have significant work ahead to develop a strong telework culture,” he added.

The Defense Department had the greatest number of employees teleworking. DOD had 16,871 teleworkers in 2008, down from 17,921 in 2007. Among the smallest agencies, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had the most people teleworking, allowing 4,395 employees to work from home. Last year, 3,612 of USPTO's employees worked from home, according to the report.

Of the 102,900 teleworkers, 64 percent of them work from home at least one to two days a week or three or more days per week, the report states.

Berry wrote that telework has many important implications. For instance, working from home can stave off possible pandemics of influenza and allow operations to continue in case of an emergency. However, OPM also found nearly half of the 78 agencies haven’t fully integrated telework into their continuity of operations plans.

Agencies also told OPM that working from home helps their employees. The greatest benefit was to employees’ morale. Their productivity and transportation were the other highest benefits.

One of the greatest barriers though was a resistance from management, agencies reported to OPM. To overcome that resistance, 42 agencies said they are offering training for managers.

About the Author

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

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