More feds telework, but managers still resist

Despite an overall spike in federal telework participation, managers’ resistance to change remains the key challenge to broader implementation, according to a new report.

Released July 6 by the Office of Personnel Management, the 2012 Status of Telework in the Federal Government Report for Congress marks the first comprehensive view of telework practices across the federal government since the enactment of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act. Before the period covered in the new report, OPM received telework data from agencies on a voluntary basis.

“This is a significant milestone,” OPM Director John Berry said of the report. “Not only does this highlight tangible changes in telework practices across the federal government, it also serves as a baseline for measuring the effects of telework in the future.”

The report indicates an overall upward trend in federal telework. The portion of telework-eligible employees who actually do telework has risen from about 10 percent to 21 percent from calendar year 2009 to September of 2011.

Larger agencies with the highest telework participation rates included the:

  • Patent and Trademark Office (82 percent);
  • General Services Administration (59 percent);
  • Treasury Department (48 percent).

Among smaller agencies, the National Mediation Board led the pack at 77 percent. The Appraisal Subcommittee of the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council claimed 70 percent, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services reported 62 percent participation.

Despite the high participation, the report found most federal employees telework on a relatively infrequent basis. More than half of agencies said teleworkers spend two or fewer days per week teleworking, and just 27 percent of employees work remotely three or more days per week.

Berry also acknowledged telework doesn’t come without its challenges, particularly on the management side. “[N]ot all managers are comfortable directing employees who telework; agencies’ ability to track and report telework metrics vary; and a lack of prior data makes comparisons to past telework metrics difficult,” he said.

In addition to management resistance as the top challenge to overcome, technology and security concerns were cited as additional barriers. Policy revising, too, “is a notoriously slow process given the often complex and multilayered reviews required,” the report said.

 

About the Author

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

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