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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Reader comments

Wed, Nov 2, 2011 HFF

Teleworking has been a struggle in our office. Some people can telework, while others are restricted. It is clearly used as the supervisor's system of control (and in extreme instances punishment), regardless of job performance or what the official policy is. Training definitely needs to start at the top to encourage the appropriate implementation. Having partaken in telework, I can strongly state the positives; saving time for both myself and the office, saving money, better focus, reduction in stress, increased flexibility, etc.

Tue, Nov 1, 2011 steve Singal DOE/HQ/Germantown,MD

Many supevisor are control freaks and oppose telework because they believe that employees goof off instead of doing work. Also, these supervisors are bad managers since they can't exercise their authority physically unless the employees under them are workig in their ingdom! Unless their attitude is enlightened towards telework is adjusted by the Secreatries and top managers. At an all hands,i asked DOE Secretary Richardson if knew that most of maangers did not support telework. he asked me to name these managers. I replied "that eould be career limiting" for me. That is not exactly the way Secreatry should have gone aboutif he was really promoting telework in seven years ago. Current Secretary Chu quipped in another all hands that employees should live close to work rather teleworking!!

Tue, Nov 1, 2011

There is absolutely no way could I work from home.

Tue, Nov 1, 2011 JW DC

If you truly want this implemented, you have to have it start from the top down. It has to be a leadership priority, and the default needs to be a preference for teleworking, not just in words, but in action. There are plenty of words floating around these days, but little action. This is something the very top of the current Administration needs to make sure that the agency heads care about, and that they then make sure their politicals and leadership under them understand their views on this--not just words, but action is needed. There are still too many at the very top that oppose telework in a blanket fashion.

Mon, Oct 31, 2011

Does Berry know that almost all Federal employee unions propose when negotiatinag telework that teleworkers do NOT work on days when the office is closed, e.g.due to inclement weather?

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