GSA begins major telework push

Top government officials have unveiled a new telework policy that aims to eventually empower the entire workforce to be more mobile and agile for the 21st century economy.

The signing of the strategy took place Oct. 31 at GSA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., where General Services Administration Administrator Martha Johnson, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and GSA Chief People Officer Anthony Costa had gathered to announce the new framework.


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Work will no longer be about sitting “all by ourselves in an office” but instead will encompass a more collaborative nature, with policies that support new way of working and thinking, Johnson said.

The policy applies directly just to GSA, but officials hope that it will lead the rest of the government to take a similarly aggressive approach. "With this policy, GSA is preparing itself to model, consult, and guide itself and the entire federal government on essential workplace and workforce transformation," the policy reads.

“We’re really facing down telework as a team sport,” Johnson said. “When you’re mobile working -- when you’re not at your desk -- you’re relying on your team to understand where you are, they know how to get in touch with you. This is about culture trust; it’s not about a bunch of rules but it’s about the sense of team work that we all need to have.”

Berry highlighted how mobility will help the government retain better workers as telework provides flexibility and quality of life that employees are going to require in the 21st century.

Telework will also reduce the stress of an already-burdened transportation networks in the D.C. area, he said. Taking federal employees off those overtaxed networks “makes it easier for everybody else in the region as well,” Berry said.

“To reap the benefits, to boost worker retention, to keep our workforce plugged in through blizzards and hurricanes, we just have to establish telework and mobility practices well before the storm cloud hits,” he said.

Nearly 25 percent of the federal workforce currently doesn’t telework because their supervisors aren’t approving it, Berry said, citing the findings from the 2010 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

It is now up to government leaders to help supervisors adapt to managing teleworkers and become comfortable with these new systems and new tools, and GSA’s new policy establishes guidelines for managers on exactly that, he said.

“Presentism – the practice of sitting at one’s desk without really working – can be just as problematic as absenteeism,” Berry said, “and I’m an adamant supporter of telework because workers in an effective telework program can only be judged by their results.”

“Those who can’t perform and can’t improve can no longer hide behind their desks,” he added.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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