Telework first-timers look back on the experience

man teleworking

Some first-time teleworkers taking part in Telework Week say they were pleased with the experience. (Stock image)

Lisa Krall, a resource soil scientist at the Agriculture Department, decided to telework for the first time during the week of March 4 in hopes of keeping up with her job duties while also attending to her hospitalized parents’ health.

She said the ability to work remotely a couple hours a day for three days during the Mobile Work Exchange’s annual Telework Week helped make a stressful personal situation a little more bearable and helped her avoid the additional stress of falling behind at work.

Under USDA’s progressive mobile work policies, Krall received quick authorization to telework from her superiors. She joined more than 135,000 employees who participated in Telework Week, by far the most in the event’s three-year history. More than 100,000 of them were federal employees.

The rapid rise of mobility in the workplace makes it clear teleworking isn’t just here to stay – it is becoming an integral part of how agencies and their employees achieve their missions.

"I think [telework] is a very individualized thing," said Krall, who assessed her productivity while teleworking as very good. "For me, it’s very helpful for situations like I experienced or during bad weather. It’s also helpful when I really need some quiet to get something done because I don’t have a private office."

Some employees, like Krall, had personal reasons for teleworking, while others told FCW they wanted to get some extra work done without the hassle of traveling to the office. In addition, some agencies encouraged employees to work remotely during Telework Week so they could test their policies and server capacities. The Defense Logistics Agency Energy, for instance, held an agencywide telework day in which contract specialist Jacqueline Verrine participated.

She worked from home that day using a government-issued laptop and was able to communicate effectively using email and instant messaging. The biggest challenge, she said, was that the agency’s servers occasionally bogged down due to all the telework traffic. But despite the hiccups, Verrine said she was more productive at home because she had fewer distractions and interruptions.

She has continued teleworking when applicable. "Overall, I liked the experience of teleworking," Verrine said. "I found telework to be equally effective as being in the office. I had all the same capabilities and functionality, but I was more focused and it eliminated the stress and expense of commuting."

Cindy Auten, general manager of the Mobile Work Exchange, said employees often feel empowered when they’re given the chance to telework. She added that concerns about productivity usually aren’t justified. Based on the exchange’s follow-up research, she said nearly 70 percent of all participating organizations see an increase in productivity during Telework Week.

Given the budget challenges agencies face and IT initiatives that direct them to create efficiencies wherever possible, Auten said telework is a great solution, assuming it helps agencies meet their particular missions. Telework promotes efficiency and cost savings while decreasing energy use, but it still must serve the purpose of the individual agency.

"Don’t just telework to telework. Telework to meet an objective," Auten said. "It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s a great solution for the challenges government has right now. Sustainability, recruitment and retention, energy savings -- these are all good reasons to telework, but you want to telework ultimately to meet some objective."

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.


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