Telework pilot projects: From acclimation to adaptation and adoption

One of the most effective ways to overcome management resistance to telework is to start with a pilot project, experts say.

The idea is to develop a basic telework strategy and then select a small group of employees to give it a trial run. That approach offers a chance to show managers that telework fears are unfounded — or fine-tune the strategy if their fears play out.

A pilot project “is a good opportunity to get managers to support it, if they know it is something that is just being tested out and they are an important part of the process,” said Jennifer Carignan, an associate manager of research at the Partnership for Public Service.

But it can’t just be for show. Agencies should use the test project to identify and fix problems with technologies or work processes. All stakeholders should be involved, Carignan said: managers, union representatives, information technology employees, human resources staff members and agency leaders.

Related story:

4 reasons why managers resist telework--and why they might be wrong

“The goal is to get everything out on the table and begin working on solutions,” she said.

Agency leaders can also use a pilot project to build a business case for telework, which will make it easier to get the investment needed to extend the strategy on a larger scale.

"You ease people’s concerns along the way, which makes it easier to adjust and continue growing the pilot,” said Cindy Auten, general manager of the Telework Exchange.

When it comes to the initial project, it’s better safe than sorry, experts say. For example, the project should have a limited scope and focus on employees who are a good fit for telework.

“We recommend agencies start with small frequencies — maybe even one day a week — and let’s just see how it works,” Auten said.


About the Author

John Stein Monroe, a former editor-in-chief of FCW, is the custom editorial director for the 1105 Public Sector Media Group.

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