Workforce

Telework crackdowns showing up in FEVS data

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Telework restrictions at the Departments of Agriculture and Education are having the desired effect, if data from the annual survey of federal employees is anything to go by.

Earlier this year, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a new policy restricting telework and requiring employees to work in an agency office at least four days a week.

At USDA, this restriction correlated to a decrease in the number of employees who said they telework. About one in five Agriculture employees reported teleworking at least one day a week, with just 4.3 percent teleworking three or more days a week, according to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). In 2017, 8.4 percent of employees said they teleworked three or more days a week.

In May, the Department of Education announced a similar policy requiring employees to be in the office four days a week and prohibiting supervisors from approving requests for full-time telework. While that policy took effect Oct. 1, the percentage of Education employees who report teleworking three or more days a week declined from 21.3 percent in 2017 to 16.1 percent this year.

At the Department of Health and Human Services, telework was a major issue leading to the breakdown of union talks. According to FEVS responses, the percentage of HHS employees required to be physically present ticked up slightly to 14 percent from 12.8 percent.

Telework remains popular and overall is on the rise. In 2018, nearly three-fourths of employees reported teleworking at least one day a week, and 16.1 percent reported teleworking at least three days a week. In fact, governmentwide, the percentage of federal employees who responded to the survey said their teleworking has increased slightly since last year, though it’s still not a common practice.

The Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and State had the highest percentages of respondents who must be physically present.

The question of whether federal employees had been notified about their eligibility for telework was eliminated from the 2018 survey. The percentage of feds who reported not being notified at all about telework eligibility had declined steadily from 2015 to 2017.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.

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