OPM reports telework progress 6 months after law

Federal agencies faced their first deadline June 7 under the Telework Enhancement Act that was signed in December, and an official with the Office of Personnel Management said that “nearly all” agencies have met the law’s requirements so far.

The law’s first deadline required agencies to determine telework eligibility for all employees and to communicate eligibility status to employees in writing.

Justin Johnson, OPM’s deputy chief of staff, said during a briefing that as far as OPM could tell, agencies were complying with the law. However, Johnson didn’t provide more specifics and acknowledged that there will be a few agencies that “go through the cracks.”

A related survey by the Telework Exchange found that while about 75 percent of agencies have completed their plans, fewer than a third of eligible employees actually are teleworking. Full story here.

Johnson said OPM is encouraging all agencies to start holding conversations between supervisors and employees to get a sense of how best to use telework to deliver results. “It’s very important these conversations happen,” Johnson said. “There shouldn’t be any artificial barriers [to teleworking] based on an individual manager’s preference.”

He said the law’s creation of the telework managing officer (TMO) position at each agency is the “most helpful thing to drive culture change,” adding that different agencies will approach telework policies in different ways. 

Agency TMOs serve as a high-level point of contact for OPM and these officials recently gathered for a panel discussion on how to implement telework successfully, Johnson said. Panel members represented agencies that have been leaders in using telework, such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Defense Department and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Johnson said OPM seeks to build a tight network of people who can ask and answer telework-related questions and distribute consistent information.

For OPM, the law’s next significant deadline falls in June 2012 when the agency will have to submit a detailed report to Congress on implementing the telework law, Johnson said.

He said an interagency group led by OPM and an official at the General Services Administration is working to develop governmentwide telework metrics to be included in next summer’s report. 

Overall, Johnson said that OPM sees the strategic use of telework as a high-priority performance goal. The agency is not looking just to increase the number of feds who telework, but to ensure that the people whose duties fit well with teleworking are taking advantage of the opportunity, he added.


About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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