Workforce

Union touts productivity gains from telework

Shutterstock photo ID: photo ID: 245503636 By Mark Van Scyoc Sign outside the Internal Revenue Service building in downtown Washington, DC on December 26, 2014. 

Feds like teleworking and want it to stick around, the National Treasury Employees Union says.

The union released results on Friday from a survey of 13,800 of its members in 33 departments and agencies that it conducted earlier this month, touting the safety role telework played during the pandemic by promoting social distancing.

"Maximum telework should forever be a go-to strategy during any type of public health emergency, because it allows government services to continue without endangering the employees," NTEU national president Tony Reardon said in a statement about the survey.

The union is continuing to pursue legislation on Capitol Hill to protect and expand teleworking policies and working to get telework friendly agreements with agencies, it says. NTEU represents about 150,000 federal employees across 34 agencies, most notably at the IRS.

Along with the role of teleworking for public safety measures, "we can draw another important conclusion about telework: it works." Reardon said. "Now every agency that expanded their telework programs has a proven track record of success that can be replicated in the future."

Last year, the pandemic required agencies to quickly shift workers able to work away from the office into teleworking mode. Doing so required facing lingering hesitancy about the efficacy of teleworking and differences across agencies in the preparedness for a full teleworking posture. Before the pandemic in fiscal year 2018, only about 42% of feds were eligible for teleworking, according to OPM data, and across the federal government, 22% of employees were participating in teleworking.

NTEU found during the health crisis, the number of feds who said that they have been teleworking an average of five days a week has shot up to about 82%.

Almost all survey respondents -- 93.8% -- answered yes when asked if they wanted "the option of being able to continue to telework additional days per week." The ability to save time and money by commuting is a teleworking perk, NTEU says.

The union's respondents did have more mixed things to say about productivity. Almost 50% reported that their productivity "increased a lot," while 24.1% reported on change and almost 5% that it "decreased a little."

The Office of Personnel Management is working on guidance for the future of teleworking and remote working, with an eye on maintaining flexibilities for agencies, OPM officials have said.

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.

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