Telework conversation due to shift

Telework is no longer the hard sell it used to be. Since the passage of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, more government agencies have steadily made progress and adopted telework not only as a way to save money but to support work-life balance, according to panelists who took part in a discussion hosted by the Telework Exchange.

With December marking the one-year anniversary of the passage of the telework legislation, participants in the panel discussion, called “One Year Later: Status of Federal Telework,” gave a progress update with some impressive numbers to back it all up. The Library of Congress, for example, has seen 300 percent growth in telework count over the past 18 months, said Baha Akpinar, telework expansion program manager at the library’s Office of Strategic Initiatives/Information Technology Services.

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Currently, nearly 600 employees telework in various degrees, with the majority doing so 2 day to 4 days per pay period. Now, the focus is on results and outcomes, not seat time, Akpinar noted.

“We’re no longer in the experimental pilot mode,” he pointed out, adding that productivity increases of 20 percent to 30 percent have been noted. Not only that: Managers and employees alike have reported high satisfaction levels.

To expand on the ongoing telework efforts at the library, 2012 will see more implementation of cloud-based apps and enhanced collaboration tools. The library will also launch pilot programs for office sharing and hoteling, as well as continue pursuing overall savings. One part of the agencywide belt-tightening includes the “one-PC-per-user” policy,” which represents “tremendous savings,” Akpinar said.

However, the concept of telework could soon be history, said Jason M. Morwick, business operations manager at Cisco’s Six Sigma Center of Excellence. Instead of telework and teleworkers, the terminology is likely to shift to "mobility" and "mobile workers." Teleworkers are still, conceptually at least, tied to a workplace, just one that's outside of the office. "Mobility," empowered by smart phones and other portable devices, connotes a wider range of choices and more freedom.

His advice for persuading managers to consider telework: Stress tangible business value and point out the importance of having continuity-of-operations plans in place well before another “snowtastrophe” happens, he said.

At the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration within the Treasury Department, 83 percent of the 826 employees telework, CIO George Jakabcin said. The agency is using telework not only as a means to save money but as recruitment and retention incentives, and to support a healthy work-life balance, he added.

To adapt to the news ways of telework was “a bit of learning curve,” he said. But the end results have shown that all the effort paid off: Employee morale has been a “very big win,” Jakabcin said, and satisfaction levels are an all-time high, possibly thanks to telework adoption.

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, Jul 17, 2013 VA Employee

The VA seems to have paid lip service to the concept of telework. Even with widespread shortage of space in VA Medical Centers for administrative workers, I have seen no telework eligible employees. I work behind a computer 40 hours a week analyzing data, and it would seem that this type of work would be ideal for a concept like telework. Would love to see some stats for the VA and how widespread telework has become. The only VA employees I know that have taken part are at the VISN/National level.

Wed, Mar 7, 2012 Ray Sharradh Pentagon CIty

Telework in my agency is a COMPLETE and total joke. A few supervisors allow their employees to telework, other than that, it's the standard cubicle dwellers nine-to-five. The ONLY thing the Telework "Enhancement" (ha!) Act meant for us was that instead of "excused absence" on snow days, you either telework or take leave. My agency celebrates "this group's special week" or "that group's special month" - what did we do for "Telework Week"? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. If I can ever find a supervisor allowing his/her employees to telework and they have an opening, I'd wash his/her car for a year to get into that office. So, please, Uncle Sam - spare us all the flowery BS about how telework saves on fuel costs, commuting costs, congestion, energy consumption, etc., and makes for happier employees. Telework in the federal work force is a complete and total lip service JOKE.

Wed, Jan 18, 2012 Mobile worker

I agree with this article and believe the apprehension in embracing a mobile workforce, is more fear than anything else. Fear of not knowing, and fear of loosening the reins on employees. I have been slowly introduced to the telework program, and now, absolutely love it. Production and morale has dramatically increased in our department. It was a deterrent to leaving the Federal workforce for private sector.

Tue, Jan 10, 2012 Klipschorn Home Office

Teleworking or being a virtual employee WORKS! If the program is set up correctly with goals/objectives set up front with all sides knowing what is expected of them then all goes well. One problem that arises is that management likes to see and touch their employees. When employees are in a virtual or Telework status management cannot "see" them, therefore they must not be working. I believe that old stereotypes should be done away with and new avenues of working should be embraced. No, I am not a young 20 something wanting to stay at home, I am a career VA employee who is 59 years old and have been working from home for 5 years now.

Thu, Dec 22, 2011 Washington, DC

Our division within the Department of Labor allows one telework day per pay period. That's ONE day every two weeks. Of course, I've averaged one day per MONTH because management keeps scheduling meetings that they insist I have to attend in person... and the policy doesn't allow us to reschedule a missed telework day. It's simply a way for them to "technically" comply with the Telework Enhancement Act without actually changing the way they do business. It's a joke.

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