Telework lessons from four federal agencies

A new report shows how four federal agencies overcame technological, operational and management challenges to establish effective telework strategies.

Federal agencies are likely to face technological, operational and management problems as they start implementing the policies required by the telework law. Meanwhile, a new study on how four agencies overcame those hurdles — including management resistance — to establish effective telework strategies could help others in government.

The IBM Center for the Business of Government's recently released telework report examines lessons learned from the Defense Information Systems Agency, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the National Institutes of Health.


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At DISA, officials learned that management buy-in, employee training and an automated telework application process were vital in establishing the agency’s telework program, according to the report.

“A key to successfully implementing telework at DISA was that agency senior leadership, including the director, embraced telework and championed the practice,” the report states. “Based on their own previous experience in industry, several members of DISA’s Senior Executive Service assuaged the concerns among some of their colleagues by sharing their experience of telework as a practice that works.”

The DISA case study also indicated that the agency convened a SWAT Team to review telework practices at other agencies and make recommendations on policy and equipment. A report on the team’s findings was prepared in 60 days, the recommendations were approved, and teleworking at the agency was expanded as a result. The IBM report states that the initiative was crucial to DISA’s success. 

In addition to tracing the agencies’ experiences in creating their telework programs, the report also offers tips on how other agencies can meet the six-month implementation deadline in the telework law.

The report, written by Baker College Professor Scott Overmyer, advises agencies to develop comprehensive telework plans by July and says managers should review employee performance based on measurable outcomes.

Baker also recommends that agencies develop clear, written telework agreements; make training employees a priority; and include telework technologies in agency budgets while allowing employees to use their own equipment when practical.

In addition, the report advises agencies to focus on security issues when executing new telework policies.

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