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Readers take on telework


In a recent FCW article, readers voiced opposition to telework as an effective tool for federal workers.

One reader wrote:

"100,000+ Feds emailing their contractors at all hours to do more work so the Feds look good."

Another said:

"So FEMA employees could save over $2M in transit costs. As long as they buy $4 million in BYOD devices. If telework is playing a large role in retaining existing employee talent, we're all doomed. Last week there was a telework day. Tried to have a teleconference. No luck. Folks 'balancing' their work/life weren't available. Played hooky with no managers checking in on them. The managers were also likely 'balancing' their work/life. Sad. And emerging countries (like China) are more than happy to actually work 6-7 days a week to out-compete us. America needs to learn how to work again. Getting up and coming to work forces discipline and appreciation for compensation. Some may see this as gloomy, but we'd better stop taking our position in the world for granted. We didn't get to be the best just by having more ability to balance work/life. We got to be the best by working our butts off, not by playing hooky and touting it as a positive thing. We are a rich nation and we can afford this for some time, but when the time comes for us to once again really work, we won't remember how. "

Frank Konkel responds:

I disagree that telework equates with lower production. As telework has turned into a viable option for more federal agencies with the emergence of the Telework Enhancement Act, several studies suggest federal employees actually increase productivity when they telework.

While opinions, especially those in middle management, continue to vary about the effectiveness, some federal agencies have managed to implement telework in a fashion that maintains or bolsters productivity among their employees. Not surprisingly, those ahead of the curve also have the metrics to back up these claims. 

Personally, I enjoy coming into the office as often as I can, but I do appreciate that my employer allows telework. As with anything else, I’m certain that some individuals take advantage of their agency’s telework policies in negative ways, but I’m also certain that many people use telework productively, and with the added benefit of an improved work/life balance. The comment that “America needs to learn how to work again” surprises me, given that Americans today work far longer hours than most other nations. We know how to work, and telework has become part of how we work. Is the U.S. government’s approach to telework perfected yet? No, but that is part of the point of events like Telework Week.

Posted by Frank Konkel on Mar 07, 2014 at 8:19 AM

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Reader comments

Thu, Mar 13, 2014

I telework almost full time due to a health problem and spend the 1 to 3 hours I would normally spend commuting actually working resulting in and average of 10 hour work days - way more productive.

Thu, Mar 13, 2014 James P

A lot of managers fear telework because they think Managment has to see a person during the day in order to know if that person is productive. with some, they just need the face to face, with others though, it is Micromanagement. at my office, alot of folks epecially younger ones, will sign up for telework so they can stay home on bad weather days. most will use that time to do online training, because there are certificates to show that you took the training and you can use that to show the boss you were not sleeping or whatever. that IS the challenge though. how do you measure productivity. some jobs lend themselves to a work at home situation, other jobs have certain security requirements that cannot be achieved outside of the office.

Wed, Mar 12, 2014

So Frank...let me get this straight...the public-private group that is focused on "demonstrating the value of mobility and telework" conducts a number of studies that happen to support their particular mission focus doesn't strike you as odd? And you cite them as a journalist? Try doing some additional research on the subject matter and look at the academic studies that are out there. You will find that it is situational and contingent on the type of work being performed. Envelop stuffing was an early "work from home" initiative too. So long as you are stuffing envelopes for the fed, you may be fine and productive. If you are doing something other than redundant, highly structured work, the benefits are debatable. Teleworking 1 or 2 days a week is one thing, but the trend is towards a hoteling environment that has not worked out so well in the private sector.

Mon, Mar 10, 2014

I applied for Telework to use on an adhoc basis, such as when road conditions make it difficult or unsafe to get to the office, and for off hours support but only if absolutly necessary.

Mon, Mar 10, 2014 Been_There DC

In our office of 350, surveys show that fewer than 5% have such contrary views of telework. None of those individuals telework. Some people fear change but change happens anyway. Telework is mostly a good thing for both employers and employees. It's what happens after telework is embraced, when austerity-minded managers shrink their offices and expect employees to work without assigned workstations, that is the real issue.

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