Feds pledge to telework more during national Telework Week

Monday often earns the dubious honor as the most congested day, but next week area commuters could see traffic ease up a little as national Telework Week kicks off.

Held March 5-9, the yearly initiative to encourage government and industry to pledge to telework has gathered more than 61,000 pledges. The majority of these pledges are federal employees, who collectively save an estimated $4.1 million in commuting costs in one week alone, amounting to more than $205 million a year, said Cindy Auten, general manager at Telework Exchange.

“Agencies across the nation are rallying behind this effort to help spare employees' pain at the pump, while seeing the benefits first hand,” she said. “Telework and mobility are certainly a priority for the federal government -- a surefire way to ensure an efficient, productive and resilient government.”

The federal government has touted telework as a way to further cut costs, reduce office space and promote a healthier work-life balance. Despite these promises of a better government workforce, a substantial number of feds don’t telework, something that recently prompted a blog on GovLoop titled "Why the Heck Aren’t You Teleworking Yet? "

“I'm tired of seeing feds commute for (literally) hours in the disaster that is D.C. traffic, polluting the spacious American skies and sustaining those eye sores disguised as federal offices along the National Mall, wrote GovLoop’s community manager Andrew Krzmarzick, who then asked “what’s the hold up?”

Commenters quickly chimed in, via e-mail and anonymously. Some said the reason was that certain roles demand employees’ physical presence on-site, making them ineligible for telework. Another common explanation pointed to managers who don’t believe in telework or don’t trust their employees enough to allow them to work off-site. Lack of investment in technology and infrastructure to support telework was another contributing factor.

But the technology excuse doesn’t hold much water these days. “Technology is really not a limiter in any shape or form anymore,” said Tom Simmons, president of the U.S. public sector at Citrix.  “Agencies across the board have developed a reliable, responsive, secure way for remote workers to do their job from home or a remote office, or just expanding telework to general mobility.”

Most agencies aren’t meeting their telework mandates yet, and most recent surveys show that only 5 to 6 percent of federal employees work remotely. Simmons said the resistance toward telework is rooted more in culture than anything; first and second line-level managers don’t know how to set measurable objectives for their remote workers.

“There has been this misconception that if you’re in the office and I can see you working, I have that confidence that you’re earning your pay and that you’re contributing to the mission,” he said. “If I can’t see you, now I have to figure out how to measure you differently.’

However, Simmons added, “this particular issue is getting addressed more and more as agencies implement telework.”

About the Author

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

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