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How to turn telework naysayers around

What can feds do to get resistant senior management on board with telework?

One tactic that's been successful: Implement a small pilot program first, said panelists  who spoke at the Telework Exchange's Telework  Town Hall on Oct. 18.

With telework becoming increasingly popular within the federal government, some departments still struggle to get everyone to realize the benefits of a mobile, flexible workforce. However, some feds have fully embraced telework and continue to push forward despite the obstacles, said participants in one of the panel discussions at today’s event in the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown D.C.

The leadership at the Agriculture Department "truly does walks the walk, and they ensure that everyone is held accountable for upholding USDA’s strong strategic telework program goals," said Mika Cross, work life and wellness program manager, at the USDA's Office of Human Resources Management.

Arleas Upton Kea, director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's division of administration, highlighted her department's view of telework as serving a larger purpose. 

"One of the things we've learned is that telework is not just something that’s nice to have, but it's really essential to us in meeting our mission," she said. But, she added, telework is "a benefit, not an automatic entitlement."

The panelists acknowledged that telework had presented several major roadblocks within their agencies, especially in terms of attitudes.Cross noted that one major obstacle was dealing with "supervisory management resistance" and overcoming the idea of "if we don’t see you, you’re not there."

There are currently more than 70,000 USDA employees who are eligible to telework, Cross said, and the agency has in the past 60 days also deployed a new reporting metrics tool to better track the performance of teleworkers.

Still, some agencies are reluctant to follow in those footsteps, the panelists said. Upton Kea offered a tip to agencies that are considering implementing telework but are meeting resistance from upper management.

"When we saw that there were a lot of naysayers, we relied upon what we know about our senior managers and our workforce: They tend to like not making firm commitments," she said and detailed how her team decided to opt for a pilot program that would allow for adjustments to be made if needed and for policies to be reviewed.

Telework has become a key component in USDA’s cultural transformation initiatives and has been embedded in the strategic road map as well, Cross said. However, there remains a lot of work to be done in fine tuning certain aspects, she acknowledged

"We haven’t cracked the nut yet; we’re still working on things like standardizing vacancy announcement for all the positions that are eligible to participate in telework so we can really [up] recruitment and return on investment that way, " Cross said.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Oct 18, 2011 at 12:19 PM


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